Last week, NCTE focused on HIV/AIDS awareness for World AIDS Day. We recognize that we must focus on this issue year round because HIV/AIDS affects transgender people at disproportionate rates. Transgender people’s HIV infection rates show that there is still much work left to do to eliminate discrimination and improve people’s lives. A recent study included transgender women, which is an important step forward.
Medical researchers around the country have been working hard to provide effective treatments for HIV and AIDS and to prevent the disease from spreading. The scientific community is currently abuzz with news that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) with an antiretroviral medication may be effective to prevent HIV infection for people who are at highest risk for infection. The study that focused on this issue was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It focused on gay men, bisexual men, and transgender women who have sex with men. The study was conducted in six countries. All study participants were educated on how they can reduce their risk of HIV infection. Half of the participants were given the PrEP treatment while the other half were given a placebo. The medication used was TDF/FTC, whose brand name is Truvada.
To say that the results of the study are heartening is an understatement. The average reduction of HIV infection risk of the study participants who participated in PrEP was 43.8%. However, the results show that the risk of HIV infection dramatically decreased for participants who faithfully adhered to treatment. The participants who took the medication at least half of the time reduced their HIV infection risk by 50.2%. The participants who took the medication every day or almost every day reduced their risk by 72.8%. The survey results clearly show that this medication, when taken consistently in combination with other preventive strategies, can play a key role in preventing HIV infection.
This study is an important step in the right direction. It shows that PrEP may be used as an effective prevention tool against HIV infection for transgender people, combined with traditional prevention methods like counseling and condom distribution. This is especially true for individuals who cannot use condoms consistently. However, we are still in the beginning stages of research. In the meantime, adequate federal and state funding for proven HIV/AIDS treatments, as well as for continuing research, is critical for transgender people, and for the country as a whole.
If you want to learn more, please refer to:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).” Available at, http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/prep/
- Grant, Robert M. et al. “Preexposure Chemoprophylaxis for HIV Prevention in Men Who Have Sex With Men.” N Engl J Med. 2010 Nov 2, available at http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1011205
- The Fenway Institute. “Pre-Exposure Use of HIV Medications Reduces Risk of HIV Infection in Uninfected People.” http://www.fenwayhealth.org/site/PageServer?pagename=FCHC_ins_fenway_research_iPrexResults