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On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that people most at risk for contracting HIV take a daily pill that has been shown to prevent being infected by the virus.
The CDC's new guidelines state that the drug regimen pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) should be used by gay men who have sex without condoms, anyone who shares needles or injects drugs, heterosexuals with high-risk partners (such as male bisexuals or an intravenous drug user) who have unprotected sex, and people who regularly have sex with partners who are infected, The New York Times reports. The drug Truvada — a mix of tenofovir and emtricitabine that has few side effects and is already used to treat patients in poor countries — costs $13,000 a year and is covered by most health insurers.
"On average, it takes a decade for a scientific breakthrough to be adopted," Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC's national center for AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, told The Times. "We hope we can shorten that time frame and increase people's survival."
With condom use down among gay men and the HIV infection rate in the U.S. barely changing in a decade, the CDC felt action was necessary. While the regimen should be used along with condoms, many health officials believe people who take Truvada will stop using them. If broadly followed, The Times reports, the drugs will be prescribed to 500,000 people a year, up from fewer than 10,000 now.