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If A Pill Cuts HIV Infection Among Gays By 44-90%, Can We Call It A Wonder Drug?

The drug Truvada is being credited with slicing the HIV transmission rate among sexually active gay men by 44 percent, and possibly 90 percent. Wowza.

The startling results come from a study conducted in the U.S. (along with Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, South Africa, and Thailand) over nearly three years that ended in Dec. 2009, with 2,499 men who have sex with men (MSM) aged 18-67 and HIV-negative when the study began. Twenty-nine trans women were also part of the study, which had participants taking a daily dose of the drug, which is manufactured by Gilead Sciences.

Researchers found 100 new cases of HIV during the study, relays AFP, which notes, “Of those, 36 were recorded among the 1,251 participants given Truvada and 64 among the 1,248 who had been given a placebo, showing that the drug reduced the risk of infection by 43.8 percent, according to the authors of the study.” That rate climbs to 90 percent for men whose blood tests showed they took the pill every day as instructed, without missing doses It’s enough to have Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which sponsored the study, to call the results “significant,” adding, “Those who took the drug on 90 percent or more days had 72.8 percent fewer HIV infections.” Moreover, initial concerns that participants would use the study as an excuse to engage in riskier sex were quelled by the results: Participants increased condom usage and reported fewer sexual partners.

That’s good news, considering the coincidental percentage of HIV-positive MSM living in major cities who don’t know they’re infected: 44 percent.

The results will be published in the November 25 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.