Miracle Pill That Prevents HIV/AIDS Stirs Controversy

Truvada is a new drug that could help eliminate HIV infections in the U.S., but not everyone supports it.

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In 2012, the FDA approved a drug called Truvada, a medication that prevents new HIV/AIDS infections. If taken properly by at-risk, sexually active men and women, it could eliminate the spread of the most deadly sexually transmitted disease with 90% accuracy. This is a huge medical breakthrough, and yet Truvada has many vocal opponents. Last week, the Center For Disease Control made a bold statement in support of the pill, and it set off a firestorm of debate.

One of the skeptics is Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. According to the New York Times, Mr. Weinstein has called Truvada a "party drug," and said the CDC would come to regret its support because, basically, people will start to believe they don't have to use condoms if they take it. The only problem is, the pill does not prevent the spread of other sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhea.

Truvada is a preexposure prophylaxis, or "PrEP" treatment. In other words, it only works for people who have not already contracted HIV. Doctors are being encouraged to prescribe the pill to "heterosexuals with high-risk partners such as drug injectors or male bisexuals who have unprotected sex; patients who regularly have sex with anyone they know is infected; and anyone who shares needles or injects drugs."

According to the CDC, "among gay and bisexual men, black gay and bisexual men—especially those who are younger—are the group most affected by HIV." Truvada would be a boon for this vulnerable group, and yet, the patients currently taking advantage of its availability aren't young, African-American gay men. Women account for 49% of Truvada prescriptions in the US.

For those who watched their friends die en masse during the years when HIV/AIDS was most deadly, Truvada is a nobrainer. Some have argued that opposing the drug is nothing short of a massive and completely misguided ethical mistake. After all, why not support a pill that has the power to save lives?

Back in 2012, a gay Huffington Post writer denounced the pill and coined the derogatory term "Truvada Whore" which is meant to disparage the men who think Truvada allows for unprotected sex with random partners. The writer has since publicly apologized for his original comments. As this debate rages on, more men and women will become infected with HIV. Where do you stand on the issue? Sound off in the comments.

[via New York Times and The Verge]

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