This Pill Helps Prevent HIV, But Who Will Have Access To It?

Two studies have found that a new pill can prevent HIV. But will the people who need it most be able to afford it?

It's a good day for the fight against AIDS: two studies have shown that a new drug can help prevent heterosexual people from getting the HIV virus.

Research had stalled earlier this year after another study found the same pill—Truveda—didn't prevent the AIDS virus among women in Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. Following two independent studies released today that showed the pills had a positive effect, researchers now believe that the first study was flawed. These two are the first studies that showed positive results in straight people; the only other study that had similar results was one with gay men. In fact, the pills were working so well that the University of Washington researchers stopped the study early; they felt it was unethical to continue giving participants placebos when they knew the real thing worked.

Here are the stats, which are incredibly encouraging: The first study, involving more than 1,200 men and women in Botswana, found that Truvada lowered the risk of infection by roughly 78 percent. In the University of Washington study, more than 4,700 people were given either Truvada, Viread or placebos; the pills reduced their risk by 62 to 73 percent.

This is very good news. But every time we get closer to real solutions in the AIDS crisis, funding remains a big problem. Now that more fortunate people no longer worry about AIDS, it can be difficult to protect the majority of people who are at high risk of contracting the disease—poor people of color. An analysis last year said that universal access to AIDS drugs would require a $27 billion international investment in the developing world alone. In the states, a year's worth of HIV medication can cost upwards of $18,000, and about 30 percent of people with HIV are uninsured. Now that we have some encouraging numbers on the effectiveness of this drug, it's time to put pressure on both donors to cough up the cash, and pharmaceutical companies to sell the pills at a reasonable price.

photo (cc) by Flickr user Pink Sherbet Photography

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