Los Angeles Times Examines MSM Who Use Antiretroviral Drug Tenofovir as Method of HIV Prevention
The Los Angeles Times on Monday examined the "growing practice" of HIV-negative men who have sex with men taking the antiretroviral drug tenofovir, in hopes of protecting themselves from HIV during unprotected sex." According to doctors and HIV prevention experts, tenofovir has been sold in gay dance clubs around the country and prescribed by some physicians for prevention, which has "alarmed public health officials," who say there is no proof the drug can prevent HIV transmission, the Times reports. A CDC survey released in July conducted at gay pride events in four U.S. cities found that 7% of HIV-negative men said they had taken an HIV/AIDS-related medication before engaging in "risky behavior" and about 20% had heard of someone who had, according to the Times. Albert Liu, director of HIV prevention and intervention studies for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, said the department plans to survey MSM in the city early next year about the use of tenofovir. He said that if the survey's findings are similar to the CDC survey, the city might begin educational campaigns about the drug's risks and uses (Costello, Los Angeles Times, 12/19). CDC earlier this year granted $3.5 million to fund trials in San Francisco and Atlanta to test FDA-approved tenofovir, which is sold by Gilead under the brand name Viread, to determine if it is safe to use for HIV prevention among MSM and if using the drug would result in an increase in unsafe sex practices and higher HIV incidence. If any of the participants contract HIV while taking Viread, researchers can determine whether the strain they contracted is resistant to the drug. In each city, researchers plan to enroll 200 MSM in the double-blind study, in which participants will be assigned to take Viread or a placebo every day for two years. Tenofovir has been shown to boost immune response and lower viral levels in the bloodstreams of patients who are resistant to other antiretrovirals (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.