The results of a massive, years-long, worldwide study on HIV-preventing drugs (PrEP) are in, and the news is great: PrEP is highly effective, extremely safe, and unlikely to lead to a drop in condom usage.
The new study, called iPrEx OLE, reinforces two important—and frequently challenged—facts about PrEP. First, not a single participant in the study who took PrEP four to seven times a week contracted HIV. (The drug is meant to be taken once daily.) Taking PrEP only two to three times a week still resulted in a 90 percent reduced risk of HIV acquisition. Taken together, these figures suggest that PrEP truly does reach near-perfect levels of effectiveness when taken as prescribed.
Second, the study found absolutely no “sexual risk compensation” among participants—that is, those taking PrEP did not abandon other forms of protection, namely condoms. That data was self-reported. But researchers also tested participants for syphilis, another marker of sexually risky behavior, and found that those on PrEP were no more likely to carry the sexually transmitted infection than those not taking the drug. These data buttress the increasingly conventional wisdom that those responsible enough to take PrEP are also responsible enough to use condoms.
None of this should come as a surprise if you’ve been following the medical world’s sudden embrace of PrEP, sold in the United States as Truvada. The Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have boldly endorsed PrEP to be used alongside condoms, particularly for men who have sex with men. New York governor Andrew Cuomo has also endorsed the drug as part of his broader AIDS eradication plan. The LGBTQ community itself may still be grappling with the implications of PrEP, but the science is clear: This drug is the future of HIV prevention.