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The day before pill

Recently announced results from two studies reveal that a daily antiretroviral tablet taken by people who do not have HIV infection can reduce their risk of acquiring HIV by up to 73%. Both daily tenofovir and daily tenofovir/emtricitabine taken as preventive medicine (PrEP – pre-exposure prophylaxis) can prevent heterosexual transmission of HIV from men to women and from women to men.

“This is a major scientific breakthrough which re-confirms the essential role that antiretroviral medicine has to play in the AIDS response,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). “These studies could help us to reach the tipping point in the HIV epidemic.”

Meanwhile, THT’s Policy Director Lisa Power, said: “These findings are a useful development. We need to employ every method at our disposal to drive down the onward transmission of HIV and this is likely to be one of a range of future options. We already know that if someone has HIV, using treatment drastically reduces the likelihood of them passing it on, as does using condoms. We also know that if an accident happens, like a condom breaking during sex, then giving the HIV-negative partner treatment (PEP, or post exposure prophylaxis) also reduces the chance of passing on HIV. These trial results show that, to some extent, pre-treatment (PREP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis) also reduces onward transmission. What we need now are further trials, particularly with gay men, to see how the same level of protection can be achieved for them as was found for heterosexuals in this trial and to see how this can be optimised for all. There is no single method of prevention, short of nobody ever having sex again, that can on its own stop the transmission of HIV. PREP may become one of the many strategies we use to prevent it- but if you want to avoid HIV right now, don’t stop using condoms. And if you’ve been at risk, get tested and look after your health.”