Written by Jane Muthoni Thursday, 19 July 2012 09:18
Kenyans who are HIV negative may soon be able to take a drug that prevents infection. Already, there is a combination of antiretroviral regiment used to prevent infection especially in rape victims. Known as Post-exposure prophylaxis [prep] is antiretroviral drug treatment that is started immediately after someone is exposed to HIV.
The new drug will come in a pill. The drug, Truvada, is awaiting approval by the Food and Drug administration in the US and could soon be in the Kenyan market as the country seeks to step up HIV infection measures.
Information released by the US panel said such a pill has long been a goal of research, something that might help stem a global epidemic that is still causing two million new worldwide cases each year.
However, there are fears that the drug may be misused or taken as an alternative to condom use. In Kenya, fears have been expressed in the past over use of Pre-Exposure prolaxis by teenagers and Men Who Have Sex With Men.
Dr Lilian Otiso, the HIV services director at Liverpool Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centre says they have increasingly noted that some youth are coming to them with fictional rape stories to access Preps.
Scientific evidence has found Prep to be an important tool for HIV prevention. If a HIV — positive person adhere to an effective antiretroviral therapy regimen, the risk of transmitting the virus to an uninfected sexual partner can be reduced by 96 per cent.
For the HIV — negative, research has found a reduced HIV infection risk by 73 per cent. It is this knowledge that the youth are using to their advantage as a free ticket to having promiscous sex without worrying about contracting HIV.
Truvada contains two antivirals and is already approved
and widely used in combination with other drugs to treat HIV infection. In the last few years, studies have shown that taking Truvada alone every day can prevent infection. If approved, the drug would be recommended for HIV-negative people at high risk of becoming infected, like gay men who have multiple partners and do not use condoms consistently, sex workers and people in relationships with someone who is HIV-positive.
Although Truvada alone can prevent an HIV infection, it cannot control one that has already taken hold. If a HIV-positive patient were to take Truvada alone, or if a user were to become infected while taking it, the HIV strains they carry could become drug-resistant. The infection would be hard to treat, and it could spread to other people.
To prevent drug resistance, people who want to use Truvada for prevention first would have to make sure they were HIV-negative and then be retested regularly, every few months, because it is possible, though unlikely, to become infected while taking the drug. But experts testifying before the panel on Thursday acknowledged that there is no way to ensure that people taking the drug receive frequent HIV tests.
The cost of the pill however, may make it out of reach for people in developing nation. The pill costs
Additional information from Global Youth Aids Network
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