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Study finds PrEP successful at protecting against HIV when taken just before sex

Gabby Jeffries October 29, 2014
Pre-exposure prophylaxis drugs are a HIV prevention method

Pre-exposure prophylaxis drugs are a HIV prevention method (Getty)

A French study suggesting PrEP could be just as effective in reducing the risk of HIV transmission if taken before sexual intercourse rather than every day has been welcomed by the National AIDS Trust.

The French PrEP trial ANRS IPERGAY announced today that participants on the placebo arm of its study should be immediately offered PrEP because they had found “a very significant reduction in the risk of HIV infection in the on demand PrEP group”.

This comes two weeks after the announcement by the PROUD trial in the UK that participants in the “deferred PrEP arm” would be immediately offered PrEP because of the significant protective effect for those taking it.

The ANRS IPERGAY trial is important because unlike the PROUD trial, which involved taking PrEP daily, it involves instead taking PrEP only “on demand” i.e. at the time of sexual intercourse.

Yusef Azad, NAT director of policy and campaigns, told PinkNews.co.uk: “This announcement from the ANRS IPERGAY trial is another exciting piece of news in the growing and powerful evidence base on the effectiveness of PrEP.

“It is especially important if it suggests that PrEP might work well when taken only around the time of sex rather than daily- that could be good news for costs.

“We will now need to look at how such ‘intermittent PrEP’ works in a ‘real life’ setting rather than a placebo-controlled trial. This news adds to the urgency of the NHS deciding how to introduce PrEP effectively to reduce the current record numbers of gay and bisexual men, and others at high risk, being diagnosed with HIV in the UK.”

PrEP is available on some healthcare schemes in the US, but in the UK, PrEP is currently still in its experimental trial period, but some campaigners are already calling for it to be made available on the NHS.

In July, the World Health Organisation stated gay men should consider using PrEP as an additional method of preventing HIV infection alongside the use of condoms.

The announcement generated a mixed response. British journalist Patrick McAleenan feared such a sweeping statement could stigmatise gay men and undermine condom use.

However, other health campaigners welcomed the WHO’s intervention, viewing it as a watershed moment in the debate on HIV prevention.

Last month, San Francisco politician Scott Wiener became one of the first US politicians to confirm his use of Truvada as PrEP to reduce his risk of HIV infection.

He told PinkNews: “I thought long and hard about whether to disclose my use of PrEP and ultimately decided I had a responsibility to be public in order to move the conversation forward.” 

Currently PrEP is only available in England through the PROUD study.

More: Bisexual men, Europe, France, gay and bisexual men, gay men, HIV, hiv infection, hiv testing, hiv transmission, HIV-prevention, men who have sex with men, MSM, national aids trust, PrEP, Public Health England, Terrence Higgins Trust

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