HIV Prevention Pill Being Encouraged For Use By At-Risk Population In United Kingdom

Sorcha Szczerbiak

In response to guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sexual health campaigners in the United Kingdom are urging that the country's National Health Service begin offering an HIV prevention pill to people who are currently healthy, but at risk for contracting the disease.

The pill gives users daily doses of a drug called pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP, which is intended to reduce the risk of a future HIV infection. There is now a clinical trial underway involving 550 gay men from the United Kingdom. One of the goals of the study is to see whether this prevention measure will have an impact on the spread of other sexually transmitted diseases, and if it will cause people to not use condoms as frequently.

In 2010, a study found that the HIV prevention pill, which is marketed under the name Truvada, was more than 90 precent effective in preventing HIV infections as long as people took the pill as prescribed. The PrEP guidelines released by the CDC state that people who meet certain criteria putting them at a greater than normal risk for contracting HIV are good candidates for the pill. Two examples of high-risk situations might be having a relationship with a partner who has HIV, or not wearing a condom while engaging in intercourse with a person who is an injected drug user.

This is the first time the CDC has issued guidelines about the HIV prevention pill, but according to statistics published in an article by The Daily Mail, hundreds of thousands of people could potentially benefit from taking the HIV prevention pill. Not everyone is on board with the idea, though. Some people say users may use the prescribed drug as a safety net and use it as an excuse to not practice safe sex.

However, according to survey results discussed in the Delhi Daily News, if the United Kingdom is anything like the United States in this regard, there's already a problem with gay men not using condoms regularly. Looking at Washington D.C. alone, three percent of the population is infected with HIV, making the problem a true epidemic. Also, the mayor's office conducted a poll and found only about half the gay men in that region used protection while having sex.

Although it seems likely a decision won't be made about the use of the HIV prevention pill in the United Kingdom before the study is complete, there's no doubt that HIV is a problem among the gay population. If a pill could help keep the problem under control, it seems like progress has been made in keeping people healthier.

[Image Credit: UPTOWN Magazine]