Promising news in the fight against HIV/AIDS. A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that gay men at high risk of becoming infected with HIV can possibly lower their risk by taking a daily dose of antiretroviral drugs.
Although the study found that taking the drugs lowered the risk of the participants by about 40 percent, researchers believe the protective benefit could even be as high as 95 percent if the person is very diligent about taking the medication daily and never missing a dose.
The study, which consisted of nearly 2,500 male participants on four continents, could be further proof that the current crop of HIV/AIDS drugs might also help prevent contracting the virus. An earlier study of a vaginal gel containing an AIDS drug also showed decreased risk of infection in African women by nearly 40 percent.
This newest study, called the Preexposure Prophylaxis Initiative, enrolled high-risk men in Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, Thailand, and the United States, and lasted approximately a year.
During the study, the men—many of whom admitted to trading food, money, shelter, and drugs for sex—were asked to take the drug daily. Out of 2,499 high-risk men, 100 became infected with the virus. Of those who became infected, thirty-six were in the drug group and sixty-four men were placed in the placebo group. According to researchers, the results indicated a reduction in the chance of infection of 44 percent in the drug group.
While the new findings are promising, they aren’t an excuse to practice unsafe sex. Some health professionals even fear that some gay men might trust the medicine’s preventative nature too much and revert back to risky behavior. However, researchers continue to stress that the preventative drugs should be used in conjunction with other measures, such as condom use.