The Drs: PrEP HIV-Prevention Pill Debate + Risk Vs. Reward

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The Drs: HIV-Prevention Pill

The Doctors shared that there is a new preventative medication being prescribed that is causing quite a bit of controversy. Over one million people are infected with HIV and shockingly, just one in seven people know know they’re infected. There’s a new drug, referred to as PrEP, which has proven to be over 90% effective in preventing HIV infection. People at high risk for the disease are excited about the drug. The gay community is calling it “life-changing” and heterosexual couples who have one HIV-positive partner are celebrating that they could have a healthy physical relationship that could eventually lead to childbirth.

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The Drs: Daniel Franzese ‘Looking’

The Drs: PrEP HIV-Prevention Pill Debate + Risk Vs. Reward

The Doctors discussed the new HIV-prevention drug PrEP that has some people wondering if it will just promote risky behaviors. (london / flickr)

The Doctors were joined by HIV specialist Dr Jorge Rodriguez. They were also joined by actor Daniel Franzese, a star of HBO’s Looking, which recently discussed the drug. Daniel said the show says a lot for HBO that they included someone in the show who is living with HIV and is not a victim. He said GLAAD and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation have been working hard to “reignite” Hollywood’s interest in creating characters on screen that are telling stories about people who are HIV-positive.

The Drs: PrEP Drug For Hiv Prevention

Dr Rodriquez explained that PrEp is actually the method. He said to think of it as birth control in that there are many different brands of birth control pills. PrEP is pre-exposure prophylaxis prevention. It’s taking one pill with two medications in it, every day, just in case you come in contact with HIV. The medication itself is called Truvada. It’s as effective as up to 97% in preventing HIV, if you take the medication every single day.

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The medication has been FDA-approved for that purpose. It’s for anybody that has sexual contact with other people in an unprotected fashion. The CDC recommends it for anyone who is high risk. If you’re single and you have more than one partner, you may want to consider the drug. The first studies were done on 4,000 straight couples in Uganda and Kenya.

The Drs: HIV/AIDS Prevention Debate

Dr Rachael Ross said what bothers her about it is that if she told people to just take the pill, they would do so rather than using condoms. Dr Rodriquez said it’s still just as important to practice safe sex, but this is an extra layer of protection. Condoms provide 85% protection from HIV. Dr Travis Stork wondered if the pill was making a younger generation more care-free. Daniel said promiscuity isn’t the issue. The issue is that we have tools to cut down new infections by 96% of we use them. He said we can end HIV and AIDS now if we’re using the proper tools.

Dr Ross said we can also end HIV and AIDS if we put more funding into education and talking to people about it. Dr Rodriguez said it’s unrealistic to think that people are always being safe. He said it’s an option. It’s not an answer, it’s just another tool.

The Drs: Risk Versus Reward For New Drugs

The Doctors continued the discussion by explaining that doctors always have to consider risk versus reward. Daniel said the topic of HIV has kind of fallen to the wayside since television shows started discussing alternative families and transgender people. Since that has happened, infections have plateaued, whereas when characters with HIV were portrayed on TV, there was a decline in infections. Dr Ross said she was glad HIV was popping up in the media again, because it continues to be a problem.

The Drs: Education For HIV Prevention

Dr Rodriguez said if someone comes into his office requesting the drug and they’ve had a history of multiple STDs, that shows they’re not using protection. He sees the patients every three months to make sure they’re taking it correctly. If you contract HIV and continue to take the medication, you could be breeding a resistant type of virus. Doctors have to determine if the drug is right for their patients on a case-by-case basis.

Dr Ross said people just can’t think that they can get on the drug and then go out and sleep with whomever they want and be protected. She said there needs to be education as well as lifestyle changes around the drug. Dr Rodriguez repeated that it’s just an extra tool. HIV is a potentially deadly illness, so if you think you’re high risk, you may want to consider this drug.

How do you feel about this drug? Do you think it will promote unprotected sex or is it a great way to reduce the number of new HIV infections?

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