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US health officials say all gay men should take a daily PrEP pill to HIV stop transmission

US health officials are urging doctors to prescribe a daily prevention pill to anyone at high risk of HIV infection in new National guidelines released Thursday. 

The updated guidelines, issued by the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), suggest men who have sex with men, those who inject drugs and heterosexual men and women with an HIV-positive partner should be taking a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).   

Studies have shown the pill, sold under the brand name Truvada, cuts the chances that someone who is still healthy becomes infected from risky sex or injection drug use.

Even though approximately 1.2 million people could benefit from PrEP, only about 100,000 people are prescribed the drug preventively, the task force says. 

The new recommendations, published on Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), come on the heels of President Donald Trump’s announcement of his campaign to end HIV transmissions in the US by 2030.  

New recommendations issued by the US Preventive Services Task Force suggest those who are at high risk of contracting HIV take a daily pre-exposure prophylaxis pill (file image)

In the US, more than 1.1 million people are infected with HIV, the virus that leads to the potentially deadly disease AIDS. Nearly 40,000 new infections were diagnosed last year. 

Once a person contracts HIV, the virus sets about attacking and destroying immune cells that normally protect the body from infection.

In the last decade, doctors have gained a much improved understanding of how to control HIV. 

The rate of deaths from the disease has plummeted since the peak of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested for HIV at least once.

Those who are at higher risk, including men who have sex with men or those who have a sexual partner who is HIV positive, should be tested as often as once a year or more. 

Although HIV is treatable, the infection has no cure.

According to the USPSTF, about 15 percent of people who have HIV don’t know they are infected and are responsible for an estimated 40 percent of transmissions in the US.

One to way to aid President Trump’s goal of stopping HIV transmissions completely is for all people at high risk to take a PrEP, 

PrEP users take a pill every day. The pill contains two medications, which help prevent HIV from establishing permanent infection, according to the CDC.

The task force reviewed 14 randomized clinical trials, eight observational studies, and seven studies of diagnostic accuracy to reach its recommendation.

The studies show that, when taken consistently, PrEP decreased the risk of infection by more than 90 percent.  

A 2018 study found that around 1.2 million people are eligible for PrEP, but only about 100,000 people were taking the medication.

‘The USPSTF found convincing evidence that PrEP is of substantial benefit in decreasing the risk of HIV infection in persons at high risk of HIV acquisition,’ the authors wrote in their report.

‘The USPSTF also found convincing evidence that adherence to PrEP is highly associated with its efficacy in preventing the acquisition of HIV infection; thus, adherence to PrEP is central to realizing its benefit.’     

In its screening guidelines, the USPSTF recommended anyone between ages 15 and 65, younger adolescents and older adults, and pregnant women be screened.   

However, the task force said more research is needed on the benefits and harms of one-time screening for HIV versus repeat screening. 

In an accompanying editorial, Dr Hyman Scott and Dr Paul  Volberding, professors of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco wrote that the new recommendations depict ‘a maturation of evidence and policy in HIV medicine’ and a consensus about how to end transmission. 

‘Together, the health gains in HIV treatment, the resulting reduction in transmission, and PrEP provide the necessary tools to end the HIV epidemic,’ they wrote.

‘Success in the next chapter in confronting this epidemic demands that these tools be widely accessible and used. The USPSTF recommendation statements should help make this happen.’

On Monday, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene launched a new sexual health marketing campaign, Made Equal, to promote Undetectable Equals Untransmittable.

This is based on scientific evidence which shows that people living with HIV cannot transmit the virus if they are on effective treatment. are on effective treatment cannot transmit HIV to their sexual partners