Researchers in California will conduct a four-year study to test an HIV-prevention pill that could slow the spread of the disease in the state, U-T San Diego reports.
The state is using part of an $11.8 million grant from UC's California HIV/AIDS Research Program to the fund the study, which is being conducted by UC-San Diego, UCLA, researchers in the San Francisco Bay Area, local governments and other agencies (Lavelle, U-T San Diego, 4/17).
There are an estimated 140,000 Californians living with HIV or AIDS, about 30,000 of whom do not know they are infected, according to George Lemp, director of the UC research program.
In 2004, FDA approved the pill -- sold under the brand name Truvada -- for treating HIV but did not approve it for prophylactic use.
For the study, Truvada will be prescribed to 700 men who have sex with men and transgender women in Los Angeles, San Diego and Long Beach -- all of whom are at a high risk of contracting HIV but not infected (Gorman, Los Angeles Times, 4/18).
The study will build on research published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2010 that found that HIV-prevention medication reduced by at least 44% the number of new cases of HIV among people at high risk for the contracting the disease (U-T San Diego, 4/17).
Richard Haubrich -- a professor at UCSD School of Medicine and lead researcher for the San Diego-based team -- said that people sometimes do not consistently take their medication. For the study, researchers will test whether regular blood tests, text messages, social networking tools or other methods can help patients take the drug daily.
Questioning the Research
Some experts say use of Truvada could prompt more men to not use condoms, which could result in more residents contracting HIV. They also argue that there is not enough evidence of the pill's efficacy (Los Angeles Times, 4/18).
In addition, findings from an unrelated Stanford University study published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggest that giving the pill to all U.S. men who have sex with men would be financially prohibitive over 20 years (U-T San Diego, 4/17). According to the Stanford study, the pill --which costs $26 per day -- would only be economically feasible if prescribed to people at a high risk of contracting HIV (Los Angeles Times, 4/18).