HIV prevention pill raises doctor concerns

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wwltv.com

Posted on July 17, 2014 at 5:29 PM

Updated Friday, Jul 18 at 9:29 AM

Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
Email: mfarris@wwltv.com | Twitter: @megfarriswwl

NEW ORLEANS -- A pill that prevents people from contracting HIV is gaining in popularity here in New Orleans.

But doctors are trying to make sure people still understand the importance of safer sex.

Medications can now help people with HIV live a normal life span. And lately Truvada, a combination pill used to treat people with HIV and AIDS, is being used daily to prevent someone from getting the virus after having sex with someone who does have HIV.

It's 90 percent effective, and is especially helpful for long-term couples where one is positive.

With New Orleans having the second highest infection rate and Baton Rouge the third, Truvada is being used here.

The doctors say at the NO/AIDS Task Force clinic, every month they see 20 to 25 people who are newly diagnosed with HIV or AIDS.

Now the NO/AIDS Task Force has a special clinic called PrEP. It's for certain HIV-Negative patients to get on the drug. But doctors want to make sure patients still practice safer sex because of the risk of STDs.

"We've made it part of our PrEP program. You have to actually meet with a behavioral health therapist, to help them figure out why they don't use condoms. And it (condom use) actually does go up the longer they are in the program," said Dr. Ronald Wilcox the Chief Medical Officer of NO/AIDS Task Force and an infectious disease expert at Tulane and LSUHSC.

"What we're seeing is a short term enthusiasm for the use of the medication, and that's great. But I'm really looking over the long term and I'm concerned that over the long term that we'll have resistance," said Dr. MarkAlain Dery, a Tulane, Infectious Disease expert.

The concern is over years, the antiviral drug would no longer work on people with HIV. That is why the PrEP clinic prescribes it to only those in very high risk groups.

Still with this pill that prevents HIV infection, doctors are concerned about the lack of safer sex education in Louisiana.

"Our state was number one in the country for newly diagnosed HIV positive 13- to 19-year-olds per 100,000 people," said Dr. Wilcox.

A small percentage of people on the drug can have kidney or bone thinning problems.

For more on going to the prep clinic, e-mail prepclinic@noaidstf.org

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