DEC 06, 2016 8:15 AM PST

UK Launches Three-Year Anti-HIV PrEP Trial

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
The little blue pill that can prevent HIV is being launched in a large-scale clinical trial in the UK.
 
Known as PrEP, the drug is used for the prophylactic prevention against the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). It is a combination of two antiretroviral drugs, tenofovir and emtricitabine, that prevent HIV by blocking the key viral enzyme reverse transcriptase. Without this enzyme, the virus can’t replicate itself and transmission is significantly reduced. While studies differ in the exact quantification of the drug’s efficacy, it’s clear that the drug is highly effective against HIV infection.
 
For people at risk of contracting HIV by sex, taking the drug as pre-exposure prophylaxis could decrease the risk by as much as 90%. But while the evidence is highly convincing, a clinical trial to assess how the drug works in real-life will be quite informative.
 
Enter the National Health Service in England, which recently lost a court battle and will now shoulder the cost of the trial. The trial will be one of the largest of its kind, anticipating the enrollment of 10,000 participants and running for the next three years.
 

“Currently 13,500 people are living in the UK with undiagnosed HIV and we are still seeing around 5,000 new infections each year,” said Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at the Public Health of England. “Given we are in the fourth decade of this epidemic there are too many new infections occurring, and we need to use all tools available to save lives and money.”
 
One of the biggest criticisms against PrEP is its immense cost relative to condoms, which are also quite effective against the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. But, proponents of the drug and the research say that in the long run, the cost of PrEP would be significantly less than treating HIV patients.
 
But it’s not all about saving money. For Harry Dodd, a participant in the trial as one of about 500 homosexual men in England, “it’s about saving lives.”
 
"I've seen the panic on the face of previous boyfriends when they are awaiting their [HIV test] results - it's a huge fear and it affects everything you do,” said Dodd. "To be able to have sex without having that fear hanging over you all the time is huge."
 

"Too many people seem to think it will encourage a hedonistic lifestyle, but for me this is about saving lives," he said. "People reacted with cynicism when the contraceptive pill for women was first introduced. For me, taking Prep has helped me to trust again, have relationships and build bridges and that shouldn't be taken away."

Additional sources: BBC News, The Independent
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
OCT 09, 2019
Neuroscience
OCT 09, 2019
Elderly Depression Remains Consistant As Antidepressant Use Doubles
  A new study from the University of East Anglia finds that despite a 2-fold increase in antidepressant use, depression among individuals 65 and older...
NOV 01, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
NOV 01, 2019
myTAIHEART Blood Test and Biopsy of Heart Transplant Recipients
Transplant rejection is a process where the immune system of the patient consider the donor's organ as foreign and rejects them. This is because t...
NOV 10, 2019
Microbiology
NOV 10, 2019
A New Strain of HIV is Identified
For the first time since 2000, researchers have identified a new subtype of HIV....
NOV 14, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
NOV 14, 2019
Examining the Squirrelly Ones: Wearable MEG Scanner that Suits Pediatric Patients
In a recent study, a joint research team at the University of Nottingham, University of Oxford, and University College London successfully tested a ne...
JAN 21, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
JAN 21, 2020
Brain scans of teens predict their risk of binge drinking
We’ve seen teenage binge drinking widely represented in popular culture. There is, however, a dark side to what many consider harmless fun. Mounting...
FEB 22, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
FEB 22, 2020
Harmful Algal Blooms
Algae is an essential plant-like organism. They contribute to the diet of some marine animals and supply necessary oxygen to bodies of water. Algae populat...
Loading Comments...