Any time soon, Nigerians who are not yet infected with HIV will have access to buy and ingest Truvada, a pre-exposure prophylaxis drug to reduce their chances of infection from the virus. This follows the approval of the drug by the Food and Drug Administration, FDA, United States, as the first drug to reduce HIV infection in uninfected persons.
The approval, which marked a milestone in the history of the disease, has been hailed as necessary to stop new HIV infections. Combined with other safe sex practices like the use of condom and circumcision of the male child, Truvada is said to be highly effective in blocking the chances of an individual getting infected with the virus. Before now, the drug has been previously approved to be used as anti-retroviral drugs in children 12 years and older.
The Truvada trial was conducted in 4,758 heterosexual couples where one partner was HIV-infected and the other was not (sero-discordant couples). The trial evaluated the efficacy and safety of Truvada and Tenofovir versus placebo in preventing HIV infection in the uninfected male or female partner. Results showed Truvada reduced the risk of becoming infected by 75 per cent compared with placebo.
No new side effects were identified in the clinical trials evaluating Truvada for the PrEP indication. The most common side effects reported with Truvada included diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal pain, headache and weight loss. Serious adverse effects in general, as well as those specifically related to kidney or bone toxicity, were uncommon.
“Treatment as prevention is the biggest scientific revolution in HIV/AIDS since the first anti-retrovirals became available in 1996, and access to anti- retrovirals has saved millions of lives,’’ said Elly Katabira, president of the International AIDS Society.