‘Give HIV meds to healthy gay men’ was the title of a BBC article on Tuesday this week. The reason for the attention grabbing title was the publication of results from the groundbreaking UK study into PrEP were released on Tuesday at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle. The so-called PROUD study, based on data from 545 participants, showed that PrEP is highly effective at reducing HIV transmission. In the study truvada (an antiretroviral drug) was given to MSM who have had unprotected sex in the three months before enrolling and who were likely to do so again and after 12 months the results were compared for those who were on PrEP and those that weren’t. The group given the drug showed a reduced risk of HIV transmission of 86%. This meant that there were 1.3 new infections per 100 person-years in the group given PrEP immediately, and 8.9 per 100 person-years in the group who were not taking on PrEP. Those who were recruited had an average of 10 partners in the last 90 days .Perhaps the most notable thing about the study results is that they represent the highest efficacy rate of any large scale trial to date, bringing hope that the drug may be approved for use in the UK soon. Sheena McCormack, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the MRC Clinical Trials Unit at UCL, and Chief Investigator of the PROUD study, commented:
“These results are extremely exciting and show PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV infection in the real world. Concerns that PrEP would not work so well in the real world were unfounded. These results show there is a need for PrEP, and offer hope of reversing the epidemic among men who have sex with men in this country. The findings we’ve presented today are going to be invaluable in informing discussions about making PrEP available through the NHS.”
Image from the PROUD study website
Based on the results of the potentially game-changing study PrEP is shown to be an important option for high risk men who are unable to consistently practice safer sex. Obviously there are questions of cost-effectiveness which will have to be answered before PrEP becomes available on the NHS, but it is likely that soon the UK will follow the US and make PrEP available as one tool to prevent new HIV infections. What do you think about using PrEP to prevent HIV transmission? Do you think this is the right approach to reducing HIV infections in the UK?