Over one million Americans are living with HIV, and one in eight doesn’t know they are infected. There is no cure, but there are almost 30 drugs that people can take to help them stay healthy, and now there is one FDA-approved drug that people at risk for HIV can take to prevent them from becoming infected.
Thirty-five-year-old Dave Rueschhoff has been an outspoken member of the gay community in St. Louis his entire adult life.
Rueschhoff has always taken steps to keep himself healthy. These days that includes a regular dose of prevention.
“It’s one thing in addition to condom use, and other safe sex practices that can help mitigate your risk and chance of getting HIV,” Rueschhoff said.
It’s called PrEP, pre-exposure prophylaxis. Two medicines combined into one pill: tenofovir and emtricitabine.
Rachel Presti, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Infectious Disease Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis told Ivanhoe, “They’re both medicines that we use all the time in people who are HIV infected, so we have a long, long, long experience with safety.”
In some clinical trials of PrEP researchers found the drugs were between 80 and 90 percent effective in preventing HIV transmission, as long as patients took the pill as prescribed, at least four times a week.
Dr. Presti said despite new advances more than 37,000 Americans are diagnosed every year.
Rueschhoff said, “I have many of friends of mine that have unfortunately been diagnosed with HIV. When I tell them about PrEP, they say, ‘I wish I knew. I wish I knew there was something like that out there.’”
Dr. Presti says PrEP does not work on patients who are HIV positive, only those who test negative for the virus. PrEP is covered by some insurances and for others, there is a program sponsored by the drug maker, Gilead, to provide the medication at low or no cost.