To stem the estimated 2.6 million new HIV infections that occur worldwide each year, more than 200 representatives from the scientific and HIV/AIDS communities took an important step in assessing the safety and public health implications of providing antiretroviral drugs to uninfected men and women exposed to HIV through sexual contact – a strategy called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.
Assembling August 19 at an open public meeting and interactive webcast convened by the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research, these researchers, HIV/AIDS advocates, members of industry and representatives from National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and state public health departments applied the findings from a number of large trials to discuss a roadmap for FDA and CDC to develop guidance on the safe use of PrEP in otherwise healthy individuals at high risk of acquiring HIV. Held with the encouragement of FDA, this meeting has important implications for medical practice in the U.S. because recent data strongly support the efficacy of antiretroviral intervention for this purpose.
Although FDA has not yet approved PrEP to reduce HIV acquisition in uninfected individuals, one form of PrEP recently studied for use in healthy men or in couples where one partner is HIV positive –a daily pill containing tenofovir plus emtricitabine (TDF/FTC) – is FDA-approved for the treatment of HIV infection. In women, studies have also demonstrated the efficacy of prophylactic treatment with tenofovir applied as a vaginal gel.
“We now have findings from large studies that support a conclusion that PrEP is effective in gay and bisexual men, who represent more than half of new HIV infections in the U.S., and now, there is evidence that PrEP may reduce HIV infection in heterosexual men and women, the population hardest hit by HIV worldwide,” said Jur Strobos, MD, Deputy Director of the Forum. “We must however, apply these promising data to develop workable strategies that mitigate risk that may be associated with the prophylactic use of antiretrovirals. These include both medical and socio-behavioral risk. We must ensure that people at greatest risk for acquiring HIV receive a comprehensive package of prevention services, including regular HIV testing, condom provision, risk reduction counseling and management of other sexually transmitted infections. The purpose of our meeting was to help identify what the components of a complete package should be.”