ARV pill prevents HIV: Study

19 September 2013 - 08:21 By KATHARINE CHILD
HIV infecting a cell (blue). File illustration.
HIV infecting a cell (blue). File illustration.
Image: Gallo Imges/Thinkstock

If people at high risk of contracting HIV take antiretrovirals as a preventative measure daily, they get almost total protection from the virus, a study shows.

Of the 750 HIV-negative Ugandans who had HIV-positive partners and took ARVs for over a year, not one contracted HIV.

Results of the study were published in the online journal PLOS Medicine last week.

In the control group of 404 Ugandans who had been given a placebo, 14 became infected with the virus.

The drug tested is marketed as Truvada.

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved its use in the US.

The study showed that ARVs can offer almost 100% protection from the virus if taken daily.

The 750 HIV-negative patients all adhered to their treatment regimen, the researchers found.

They made unannounced visits to the study participants' homes.

The Wits Reproductive Health and Research Institute's Professor Francois Venter said: "This is very exciting and compelling and confirms other studies in which people who took their tablets got almost total protection.

"The quandary is whether to treat only the HIV-positive partner, which also gives total protection if taken properly, or to treat both."

Other trials of the use of antiretrovirals as prophylactics were not as successful because of the non-compliance of participants.

The Voice trial, in South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe, was stopped a year early because some of the women taking part did not apply the antiretroviral Tenofovir gel daily, and some did not use it all.

ARV preventative treatment is available from some private doctors.