HIV can be transmitted through sexual contact, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, shared needles, occupational exposure, and blood transfusion. However, unprotected sex with multiple partners is the nation’s leading HIV transmitter. To protect those who are at risk of transmitting the disease, the FDA approved Gilead Sciences’ pill Truvada. Truvada has been out on the market since 2004 as a management drug for those infected with HIV. Recent studies prove the drug can decrease the risk of transmitting HIV with healthy homosexual and heterosexual couples.’s resident pharmacist Dr. Sarah G. Khan spoke with us about Truvada. She explained that “Truvada is a combination of two anti-retrovirals that are used in the treatment of HIV and has now been approved for prevention. It is important to note that the patient must be negative for HIV to use it for preventative measures.” Anti-retroviral drugs fight retrovirus, which are dominate viruses in HIV.

Dr. Khan explains why specific areas of the population would find the drug useful. “Certain patient populations that are more prone to contracting HIV would be good candidates for this drug. Just to give you a few examples, people who are manic depressive or bipolar tend to become promiscuous when they are in a manic state and may have unprotected sex with multiple partners. Intravenous drug users who share needles may be another population that Truvada might be suitable for. Also, those who know their partner is HIV positive.”

She also weighs on the research side of the drug. “The studies that were conducted showed that the risks was reduced, but not 100%, so people shouldn’t expect Truvada to give them a free pass to be reckless.” Furthermore, researchers saw that the risk of contracting HIV decline by 42% in healthy homosexual and bisexual relationships. In 2011, another study found that Truvada cut the risk of infection by 75% in heterosexual couples. At least one heterosexual couple participating in the study was infected with HIV, and Truvada helped decrease the chance of getting HIV from the infected partner. Each study was conducted with the practice of safe sex, like using condoms and counseling.”

Dr. Khan mentions the process of taking Truvada, the side-effects, and gives a little advice. The drug is taken once a day. Patients must also be part of a REMS (Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies) program for education and training.

Side effects of Truvada include “fat redistribution, skin rashes, and effects on the liver and kidneys,” Dr. Khan explained. Before taking this or any drug patients should know what other risks exist.

Truvada isn’t going to rid the world of HIV, but Dr. Khan said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and if we can prevent people from contracting HIV that would not only saves billions in health care costs but a priceless amount in lives not lost to HIV and AIDS. Truvada isn’t a cure but it’s a start.”

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