New advances could help keep HIV at bay

Truvada, OraQuick newest tools for prevention efforts

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: November 24, 2012 in A&E / Life&Style, Featured Stories, Health and Wellness

OraQuick’s new at-home HIV test will benefit some who
might find it uncomfortable to visit health centers or
other public spaces for free HIV testing events.
Photo Credit: Agência Brasil, licensed under Creative Commons.

Two new advances in HIV/AIDS prevention and testing could mean big changes for those at-risk of infection. This summer, the Federal Drug Administration offered their approval to new uses of AIDS medicine Truvada and to an at-home HIV test.

Dale Pierce, practice manager and Ryan White Program director at Rosedale ID in Huntersville, says the two new advances offer plenty of hope for prevention. Yet, he describes both as a sort of “double-edged sword.”

Pierce, who is HIV-positive, said his experience taking HIV/AIDS medications played a crucial role when he and his partner, who is HIV-negative, discussed Truvada. His partner had considered using the medicine for its newly-approved prevention method. Known as a pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, Truvada can be taken daily by an HIV-negative person to help reduce the risk of HIV transmission.

“As someone who has gone through having to take the medications and dealing with its side-effects and how the medicine alters your lifestyle, it wasn’t something we were willing to try,” Pierce says. “At this point, we are more focused on practicing safer sex and being aware of what’s going on.”

Though Pierce and his partner have opted not to use Truvada, he says it can be of practical use to those at-risk. He offers some warning, hoping that the potential reduction in infection risk doesn’t give some a false sense of security. Safer sex practices, he said, are key to prevention.

Pierce says he’s more hopeful about OraQuick, the new at-home HIV test from OraSure. He has his worries — chief among them the availability of medical and psychological counseling in the aftermath of a positive result. Generally, though, the test is a good step toward increasing the availability of HIV testing for more people.

“It is easer access to testing for those people who might be fighting the stigma, who may not want to go to free testing events or the health department,” Pierce says.

At the end of the day, Pierce is glad to see the improvements. But, he’s quick to remind: “There is no 100 percent sure-fire means to stop [HIV] transmission,” he says. Knowledge, awareness and safer sex practices need to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. : :

— Compiled from the Federal Drug Administration and from information provided by the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America (ACRIA).

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Quick Facts

Truvada

Approved by the FDA in July to reduce the risk of HIV infection among uninfected individuals. Recommended for use by those who are at a high risk of infection or those with HIV-positive sex partners. Used daily as a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Must be used in combination with safer sex practices. Shown to reduce HIV infection among MSM by as much as 42 percent and among heterosexuals by as as much as 72 percent. Available by prescription only. Critics have concerns that availability of the new drug could discourage safer sex practices. For more information, visit truvadapreprems.com.

OraQuick

Approved by the FDA in August. A rapid home-use kit used for self-testing. Provides results within 20-40 minutes. Test uses sample of fluid from moth. One line appears on stick if test is negative. Two lines indicate HIV antibodies were detected. Follow-up confirmation testing with more robust, lab-based testing methods is recommended to confirm result. Unable to determine HIV infection within the first three months of potential exposure. False negatives possible after three months. Available for sale in stores and online to all people age 17 or older. Critics have concerns that the in-home testing leaves individuals without immediate or effective counseling, referral care and the psychological impact of testing among casual sex partners or in other adverse situations. For more information, visit oraquick.com. : :