New HIV prevention drug brings hope and concerns


POSTED: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - 5:45pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - 5:49pm

In the Baton Rouge where the rate of AIDS infection is highest in the nation, news of a newly approved pill to help stave off the infection is welcome.

"Baton Rouge has the highest number of aids cases, and that's a troubling thing for our city. So this will help us to potentially reduce the number of people who might become infected," Tim Young, the executive director of HIV/AIDS Alliance for Region Two, said.

That's not to say there aren't concerns, Sharon Decuir is HIV positive, and has been for 10 years. She has taken the pill for years as part of her regular regime, and while she's happy with its new purpose she has some words of warning.

"For the people that are going to be taking Truvada, it's going to be an expensive regimen. It's not going to be easily affordable," Decuir added.

Not affordable may be an understatement for many. Taken daily the price tag on the drug can easily soar to over $1,000 a month. Meaning the pill may be out of reach to many who are at the highest risk of infection. Still for those infected with HIV, every step forward in treatment is a victory.

"We're looking at methods to decrease infection. And we're just adding something else to our arsenal to keep people from becoming infected," Decuir explained.

Concerns have also been raised that some taking the pill will engage in ever more risky sexual behavior, although study data doesn't support that claim.
The pill still comes with a disclaimer.

"Taking Truvada will help prevent someone from becoming HIV infected. Now it's not a cure-all. If they continue to engage in risky behavior, they still run the risk of acquiring HIV infection," Young explained.

The pill will only be approved for those people at high risk of contracting the virus, for example those with HIV positive partners.

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