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Panel backs HIV prevention pill

A person holds handful of prescription pills in their palm.

July 12, 2019—People at high risk of HIV—the virus that causes AIDS—should take a daily pill that protects them from the virus, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

The pill for preventing HIV is called preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP). The Task Force, a panel of experts in disease prevention, made its recommendation based on a review of the latest scientific evidence on PrEP.

It found that there is substantial benefit to taking PrEP for those at risk. PrEP is highly effective at blocking the transmission of HIV, which in the U.S. is mainly spread through having sex—or sharing needles—with someone who has the virus. The Task Force also noted that PrEP has few serious risks.

Some 1.1 million Americans are now living with HIV. Over 700,000 people have died of AIDS since 1981. And in 2017, over 38,000 new cases of HIV were reported.

So far, the only FDA-approved PrEP treatment in the U.S is a pill called Truvada. It combines two medicines that are used with other medications to treat AIDS. It needs to be taken as prescribed to work best.

Are you a candidate for PrEP?

PrEP is only for people who are at high risk for developing HIV, the Task Force emphasized. Those at high risk include individuals who inject drugs or those who:

  • Have a partner who has HIV.
  • Have sex with others at high-risk for HIV (or whose HIV status is unknown) and do not consistently use condoms.
  • Have had an STI with syphilis, gonorrhea (or chlamydia as well, if you're a man) within the last 6 months.
  • Are sex workers.

If you have a heightened risk of HIV, be sure to talk with your doctor about taking Truvada.

Combining PrEP with condom use provides even greater protection from HIV than using PrEP alone. But be aware: PrEP alone doesn't protect against sexually transmitted infections other than HIV, the Task Force cautions. That's another reason that consistent condom use is important.

Knowledge is power

The more you know about HIV/ADS, the more you can protect yourself. Get the facts about AIDS and the virus that causes it at our HIV/AIDS topic center.

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