Effective HIV Prevention Strategy Now Recommended for People Who Inject Drugs

San Francisco, June 13, 2013 — A proven tool to stop the spread of HIV is now recommended for people who inject drugs, marking an important step forward in the fight against the disease. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says health care providers should consider offering daily HIV drugs to uninfected people who shoot heroin, methamphetamines, and other injectable drugs to help them avoid HIV infection.

“This is another landmark moment in our steady advancement toward ending the transmission of HIV in the United States,” said Neil Giuliano, CEO of San Francisco AIDS Foundation. “Numerous studies have shown that taking HIV medications can prevent the sexual transmission of the disease and now, with this new recommendation from the CDC, we have another safe and effective strategy for people who inject drugs, giving us more hope than ever that we can put an end to this epidemic once and for all.”

The strategy is known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). In July 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the drug Truvada for PrEP for use by HIV-negative people at risk for infection—particularly gay and bisexual men—as part of a comprehensive prevention package that includes regular condom use, HIV testing, and risk reduction counseling. Now the CDC is expanding the recommendation of PrEP to include people who inject drugs.

The new recommendation follows a recently published study conducted in Bangkok, Thailand. Researchers from Thailand and the U.S. recruited more than 2,400 injection drug users. Half were randomized to receive the HIV drug tenofovir, which works similarly to Truvada. Participants were tracked for four years, and those received tenofovir were about 50 percent less likely to become infected with HIV than those who received placebo pills. In a subgroup of participants who took tenofovir through directly observed therapy at clinic visits, the reduction in HIV risk increased to 74 percent.  

Approximately 50,000 people are newly infected with HIV every year in the United States, and drug users represent about one in 13 new infections.

Since the early days of the epidemic, San Francisco AIDS Foundation has supported evidence-based strategies to stop the spread of HIV among drug users, including its needle exchange program and harm-reduction counseling. As a result, rates of new HIV infections among people who inject drugs in San Francisco are well below the national average. The foundation strongly supports adding PrEP to the prevention “tool box” for all at-risk groups, including people who inject drugs, and stands ready to work with health care providers and community stakeholders to develop the best strategies for making PrEP available to those most at risk for HIV.

About San Francisco AIDS Foundation
No city experienced epidemic levels of HIV faster than San Francisco. At San Francisco AIDS Foundation, we work to end the epidemic where it first took hold, and eventually everywhere. Established in 1982, our mission is the radical reduction of new infections in San Francisco.  Through education, advocacy, and direct services for prevention and care, we are confronting HIV in communities most vulnerable to the disease. We refuse to accept that HIV transmission is inevitable.


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