PrEP a good preventative against HIV, despite one infection in Dutch test

Pills (Photo: MorgueFile / Wikimedia Commons)Pills (Photo: MorgueFile / Wikimedia Commons)

A GGD study into the HIV inhibitor PrEP showed that the treatment is an effective way to prevent an HIV infection, despite one of the 376 participants in the study contracting the virus, according to the Parool. PrEP, short for Pre-exposure prophylaxis, t is a way for people who do not have HIV, but who are at a high risk of getting the virus, to help prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day. The pill, marketed under the brand name Truvada, contains the medicines tenofovir and emtricitabine, that are used in combination with other medications.

"We knew before we started the study that the drug was effective, but we didn't know if people would be willing to take the pills faithfully. That turned out to be the case," GGD researcher Else Hoornenborg said to Het Parool.

Worldwide there have been cases of men being infected with HIV despite using PrEP, but in all these cases it involved a viral strain that was already resistant to the treatment. In the single case of infection during the GGD study, could have been stopped by the daily treatment. The researchers did not find out why infection still occurred despite this.

"The risk of HIV is extremely low with PrEP. The main message therefore remains that PrEP offers good prevention. Although it is of course an incredible disappointment for the man who was infected," Hoornenborg said.

The researcher called it extremely important that this treatment become available to anyone who has an increased risk of contracting HIV. "I am thinking of young men who have sex with men, men with a migrant background who have sex with men, and transgender people, because it is difficult to reach them," she said to the newspaper. 

Currently, GGD clinics already provide PrEP to certain target groups, and the medication can also be prescribed by many doctors. However it many cases the patient has to pay for it themselves. 

"But it would be good if you can also offer it in other ways. For example online, with guidance via the webcam. The guidance must of course be good, but it is worth investigating whether this can be done safely. All this in the hope of removing barriers for men who would otherwise find no way to Prep, and get infected."