The lead article in today’s New York Times, “Advocating Pill, U.S. Signals Shift to Prevent AIDS,” promotes a new recommendation to prevent HIV, the viral infection that leads to AIDS. The use of a preventative medication is recommended for high-risk groups such as gay men and intravenous drug users.
While the use of condoms is considered very effective, their use is going down among these groups, and it is thought that they may be open to a daily drug regimen instead. The number of infected individuals in the United States has remained steady for a decade at 50,000 individuals, but barring some action, it is expected to go up.
It is hoped that the recommendation by the CDC for high-risk groups to use Truvada will increase the prescription rate among doctors and speed up the adoption of the drug by non AIDS specialists. There is generally a significant delay between a scientific breakthrough and its widespread adoption.
The new recommendation will provide a bonanza for the pharmaceutical company producing Truvada, but maybe the increased number of prescriptions — they are expected to rise 500-fold — will bring down the cost. Truvada currently costs $13,000 per year, but coverage by insurance companies is widespread.
Though many of the groups affected are on the fringes of American society, and their behavior may be frowned upon, they certainly do not deserve the death sentence of AIDS. I hope people rally to these vulnerable individuals and encourage the use of Truvada as a prophylactic.