Monday, October 1, 2012
Fears over Aids 'miracle pill": Truvada
MARIKA HILL at www.stuff.co.nz
Fears are being raised that a ''magic pill'' could spark a new wave of the Aids epidemic in Auckland.
The HIV treatment drug Truvada is being touted as a way to protect against infection in the United States and local AIDs campaigners fear this false promise will lead to complacency about safe sex.
NZ Aids Foundation director Shaun Robinson said men are foolishly thinking they are 'safe' or not infectious if they are taking the drug, something that could reverse all their hard work.
''The idea that condoms is no longer necessary is a very dangerous idea. What we would see is a huge increase in HIV again."
Truvada works by suppressing the symptoms of the HIV virus to minimal levels.
Health professionals worldwide have raised serious concerns gay and bisexual men think it prevents the spread of AIDs and fail to take precautions.
A man who became infected with HIV a few years ago said he has already heard whisperings within the gay community in Auckland that Truvada will protect against HIV.
"People are just going to look at it as something to pop on a Friday night and think they're safe,'' the man, who declined to be named, said.
The Auckland man, aged in his twenties, said although the treatment for HIV has vastly improved the chances of survival, it is still not a disease he'd wish on anyone.
One in five HIV-positive gay or bisexual men in Auckland are unaware they have the disease. Research showed Truvada significantly lowered the risk of HIV being spread between a heterosexual couple.
New Zealand has some of the highest rates of condom use in the world, with 80 per cent of gay men using condoms for casual sex.
The rate of condom use is as low 40 per cent in parts of United States.
Robinson said he hoped one day New Zealand could be the first country to eradicate new HIV infections.
New Zealand's new infection rate just began reducing in the past 18 months after a surge between 2000 and 2010 as online dating sites made casual sex more accessible.
Truvada has numerous side effects including nausea and diarrhoea.
As a consequence many may be unknowingly spreading the disease, University of Otago research recently found.
- Clarification: An earlier version of this story quoted NZ Aids Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson as saying, in reference to Truvada preventing the spread of the HIV virus, "there is no evidence it will work for gay men but people are coming to their own conclusions''.
However, NZ AIDs Foundation has since contacted Fairfax Media with research findings to the contrary.
A trial has shown that Truvada is effective in reducing the risk of HIV infection by 42 per cent in HIV negative men who have sex with men, a NZ AIDs Foundation spokesman said.
- © Fairfax NZ News