An HIV cure is yet to be achieved, but in the last few years, a lot has been done to prevent and manage HIV and AIDS more and more.
As a step forward, the CDC is planning on expanding access to prevention medication.
More precisely, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just released new guidelines encouraging people to talk about HIV prevention medication more openly, be it among patients or health providers.
The same new guidelines also highlight meds recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration as well as some that are still pending approval in order to increase those options even more.
For instance, PrEP, also known as Pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a medication that can reduce the risk of contracting HIV through sexual contact by up to 99 percent if prescribed and taken accordingly.
If taken correctly, as prescribed, this medication is not only highly effective but has a low risk of causing side effects as well.
Unfortunately, CDC data shows that in 2020, only about a quarter of those who got recommended PrEP actually took it.
Director of infectious disease at the South Shore Health, Dr. Todd Ellerin, shares that “We have a really major implementation gap when it comes to PrEP.”
As for why this is happening, there are two main reasons.
First of all, not all health providers discuss this medication with patients, and secondly, some patients feel uncomfortable talking about their sex life with their doctors.
Ellerin goes on to say that “As providers, we do not necessarily ask all the questions regarding sexual behavior. We do not screen as much as we should. And it is also possible that some patients may not be so forthcoming with their sexual behaviors.”
As a result, the CDC is trying to target this gap by recommending that all health providers talk about PrEP with their sexually active patients.
Board-certified emergency physician Dr. Darien Sutton states that: “I think the most valuable update that could have been put in place was encouraging providers to have conversations about the benefits of PrEP, as many patients are not aware of its existence or the benefits.”
As per the CDC, here are the people who should definitely be taking PrEP:
– People who have an HIV-positive partner,
– People who had a bacterial STI (sexually transmitted infection) within the past six months,
– People who never or rarely use condoms,
– People who share injection equipment with their HIV-positive partner.
Sutton stresses that “I honestly have conversations about PrEP with any of my patients who are sexually active with more than one partner. I think that it really should just simply start there.”
Other preventive pills are Truvada and Descovy and they need to be taken every day for at least one week in order to be fully effective.
However, those who would rather not take medication every day might get a better option soon.
After all, Cabotegravir, an injectable medication, has been shown to be quite effective in preventing HIV in clinical trials.
For now, Cabotegravir is awaiting approval from the FDA.
If approved, this medication needs to get injected only once every two months.
Infectious disease specialist at South Shore Health, Dr. Simone Wildes, says about this possible solution that: “With regards to the Cabotegravir, you know, we’re hoping that that gets approved, and it’s definitely useful for people who don’t like to take a pill a day.”
I would like to see the CDC update its position on male “circumcisions” (prepuce amputation of those with a penis) as a measure to reduce HIV based on the latest studies from Denmark and Canada.