Public-health officials are pushing for much wider use of a drug that has proved effective at preventing HIV infection.
PrEP, or preexposure prophylaxis, is a daily medication that people at high risk for HIV can take to protect against acquiring the virus, which causes AIDS. The drug Truvada was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2012 for use as PrEP. About 50,000 people a year in the U.S. become infected with HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Still, fewer than 22,000 people are estimated to have taken PrEP for prevention, according to an analysis this year in the journal Current Opinion in HIV and AIDS. AIDS remains a significant cause of death in certain populations although treatments have made living with the syndrome a reality for many.
The CDC in November released a report suggesting some 1.2 million U.S. adults who are at substantial risk for acquiring HIV could benefit from PrEP. Among those are one in four gay and bisexual men; one in five people who inject drugs; and one in 200 sexually active heterosexuals.
Taking PrEP reduces the risk of HIV infection through sexual transmission by as much as 92 percent and by about 70 percent in people who inject drugs, the CDC says. Still, one in three primary care doctors haven’t heard of the medication, according to a 2015 CDC survey.