Positive Study Results Hold Promise for HIV Prevention

Foundation Welcomes Positive Data from Study Evaluating Antiretrovirals as an HIV Prevention Strategy for Gay Men

San Francisco, November 23 - San Francisco AIDS Foundation is encouraged by the results of the world’s first clinical trial evaluating the use of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to prevent HIV infection among gay men and transgenders.  The data show that the antiretroviral drug Truvada, when offered as part of a comprehensive prevention package including condoms and counseling, was associated with a 43.8% reduction in HIV infections.  

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention is an experimental approach that involves taking antiretroviral drugs before exposure to the virus.  These data represent an early—but important—scientific breakthrough in a new possible approach to HIV prevention.  Much more needs to be understood before PrEP is rolled out to the community, but for now, this study presents an encouraging glimmer of hope, particularly in San Francisco.

"The study is very important to the San Francisco community because it is the first to demonstrate the efficacy of an HIV prevention technology among gay and other men who have sex with men—including transgender and transsexual individuals,” said Dr. Judy Auerbach, Vice President of Research and Evaluation.  “It’s an important first step towards determining if PrEP could be part of a comprehensive HIV prevention package in communities like ours with epidemics that continue to disproportionately affect gay men.”

There remains an urgent need for safe and effective prevention strategies.  Approximately 2.7 million people are infected annually around the world every day, including 56,000 in the United States.  Although behavior change programs have contributed to dramatic reductions in these rates far too many people remain at high risk.

The Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Initiative, or iPrEx study, followed 2,499 healthy, “high-risk” gay men, transgender women and other men who have sex with men.  Participants in 11 sites in Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, Thailand and the United States were randomly assigned to take either one tablet of Truvada (a combination of tenofovir and emtricitabine) or a placebo once a day. 

The results not only show that PrEP was effective in reducing HIV infection, but that it  appeared to work best among participants who used the study drug consistently.  Like other HIV prevention trials, iPrEx demonstrated the importance of adherence—taking drugs as prescribed—in achieving the desired outcome.

San Francisco AIDS Foundation emphasizes that PrEP is one part of a much larger equation.  In this study, PrEP was administered in the context of a comprehensive HIV prevention package, including condom promotion and STI screening and treatment.  As no prevention strategy is 100% effective, the best way to protect yourself from HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections is with a condom.  Further research is needed—and, happily, is underway—to determine how important PrEP will be, including for populations other than gay men.

San Francisco AIDS Foundation also believes that the iPrEx study underscores the need for people to know their HIV status so that appropriate HIV prevention, treatment, and care interventions are made available to them.  While we welcome the development of antiretroviral therapy as an HIV prevention strategy, we also feel strongly that ARVs must be accessible to all HIV positive people who need them.

About San Francisco AIDS Foundation
San Francisco AIDS Foundation works to ensure the HIV epidemic ends in the same city where it began. By combining innovative, evidence-based programs for HIV prevention and care with bold policy initiatives focused on issues ranging from harm reduction to total health and wellness, the agency is making sustainable progress against HIV among populations most vulnerable to the disease. Established in 1982, San Francisco AIDS Foundation refuses to accept that HIV transmission is inevitable.


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