WASHINGTON - We're learning more about a new medical breakthrough that could become a game changer in the fight against HIV.
A study of a pill used to prevent infection in people at high risk of getting HIV has revealed some significant results. None of the 657 participants came down with the disease over a two and a half year period and 100 percent of the study's participants remain infection-free.
Dr. Ray Martins from Whitman-Walker Health says the pill, which is sold under the brand name Truvada, was approved by the FDA for prevention back in 2012. He says the results of the study show that the little blue pill can effectively prevent someone from contracting HIV.
"So how it works, it doesn't allow HIV to spread throughout the body. It stops it from making more copies of itself and infecting other parts of the body and other white blood cells," said Dr. Martins.
One of Martins' patients says Truvada has changed his life and given peace of mind to him and his partner, knowing they are protected from HIV.
Dr. Martins says the medication is not cheap. It costs $1,200 to $2,000 a month without insurance. And there are side effects.
"It can affect people's kidney function. It can affect people's liver function. It can also decrease their bone marrow density, meaning it kind of pushes them a little toward osteoporosis. But most of these, actually all of these, tend to be reversible either over time or when you stop taking medication," said Dr. Martins.
Results of this study are getting a lot of attention on social media. Some people have been supportive, recognizing the worldwide impact this drug could have on helping stop the spread of HIV. On the other hand, some people are questioning why anyone would put themselves at risk by participating in the study in the first place.
Dr. Martins told us they are doing a similar study at Whitman-Walker with 300 of their patients participating in a larger study of 1,500 people. The doctor says the current study is of a more diverse population, including women.