Friday, August 31, 2012

Are we PREPPED for PrEP?

PrEP is short for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis of HIV to prevent transmission of disease. Recent studies have demonstrated that a combination medication tenofovir disoproxil fumarate plus emtricitabine (TDF/FTC) and the FDA has approved it's use.  Our own, Infectious Disease clinician, Erika Aarons, RN, CRNP, MSN was on the FDA Advisory panel that evaluated and voted upon approval of this new medication. Read the article here. The FDA resport is here.

This news is exciting in that this the first medication combination identified in 30 years that if taken regularly, can result in a 90% reduction in risk of an HIV negative partner acquiring the disease from their HIV positive partner. So, in serodiscordant partners (one with HIV/AIDs, one not) this is an incredible breakthrough.
Here's a few important issues:
*Medicine only was effective at that rate if taken every single day - those who did not have sufficient medication in their blood did not have the same result
*HIV transmission in serodiscordant couples occurs outside of a couple in 25-30% of cases (Donnell 2010; Cohen 2011)
*Estimated cost of daily therapy is likely to be in excess of $10,000/year.
*Lifetime costs (2010 numbers) for HIV treatment is $379,668 (excluding reproductive health related issues)

So PrEP is amazing scientifically, yet does it remain a wish versus a reality? This is a great example of the challenges faced when we address paying for prevention. I wonder how expensive or inexpensive an intervention would need to be to get support to prevent Diabetes?

HIV at the onset was (fairly) quick and (mostly) deadly disease - with the onset of HAART, HIV can become a chronic disease. At the beginning when there was only one or limited agents, medical science had not demonstrated how sneaky the HIV virus can be. It is now known that to combat disease, people often need three types of anti virals to keep the disease from changing and becoming resistant. I think of it as making a corral for a horse with three fences - keeping it within the triangle. If we use one or two or infrequently use the medicines, HIV learns quickly (becomes resistant) and makes the medicine ineffective.  Regular medicine use is challenged for any medical illness - HIV is no different. But there are some difference with HIV - CDC estimates that 1 in 5 people have disease and are unaware. So in place where there is a lot of HIV, people ages 11 and up and all people sexually active should have HIV screening as part of their routine evaluation. In the Philadelphia Ujima project, we talk about "Know Your Numbers, Own Your Health."

Perhaps next steps need to be more medical advances resulting in more medicines that decrease the cost of transmission preventing medicines?

Kaiser Family Foundation. Data Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention-Surveillance and Epidemiology, Special Data Request; 2010

Donnell D, Baeten JM, Kiarie J, et al. Heterosexual HIV-1 transmission after initiation of antiretroviral therapy: a prospective cohort analysis. Lancet 2010;375:2092-2098

Cohen MS, Chen YQ, McCauley M, et al. Prevention of HIV-1 infection with early antiretroviral therapy. N Engl J Med 2011;365:493-505

Kaiser Foundation 2012 Fact Sheet on Women with HIV here

Hot Off the Press  Aaron, E., Cohen D. Pre-exposure Prophylaxis for the Prevention of HIV

Transmission to Women in the United States AIDS 2012, 26:


  1. The blog and data is excellent and informative as well.
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  2. This blog is a joy to read and quite useful too especially for those who aren't aware of the dangers of HIV. Judging from the data, seems like 3rd world countries which don't have access to these meds (and funds) will find it difficult to keep those people alive for long. Turns out that prevention has always been and will always be better than the cure.

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