Researchers funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the antiretroviral drug tenofovir can help to prevent drug users from contracting HIV from infected needles.
CDC study reveals promising preventative measure
The study gathered data from roughly 2,400 drug users living in Thailand and found that by taking tenfovir, subjects were 49 percent less likely to contract HIV. Participants were between the ages of 20 and 60 years old and were recruited from 17 drug treatment clinics in Bangkok. The trial was randomized, double-blind and placebo controlled, and subjects chose to be observed either directly on a daily basis or once a month. They were tested for HIV monthly and condoms and methadone treatments were available to them.
Patients whose blood tests showed that they took the drug on a more regular basis were 74 percent less likely to be infected than those who took it irregularly. In the group that was given a placebo, 33 subjects were found to have been infected with HIV during follow-up testing, while 17 participants in the group given tenofovir became infected.
"This is an exciting day," Jonathan Mermin, M.D., director of HIV prevention at the CDC, told The New York Times. "This culminates a decade of [pre-exposure prophylaxis] research."
The news source noted that the study took measured precautions to ensure that the trial was in as much of a real-world environment as possible.
An estimated 10 percent of newly diagnosed HIV infections globally are caused by sharing needles, and 8 percent of infections in the U.S. are expected to be from the same source. The study concluded that pre-exposure prophylaxis with tenofovir could be used as a means of preventing HIV infection in individuals who inject drugs.
Tenofovir as an HIV treatment
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, and attacks T cells in patients' immune systems, leaving them defenseless against other infections and diseases. Over time, many HIV cases develop into AIDS. There is currently no effective cure for HIV or AIDS.
Tenofovir is prescribed to reduce the amount of HIV in the blood, according to the National Institutes of Health. It lowers the risk of AIDS developing in HIV patients, but does not cure the virus. Tenofovir can cause severe damage to the liver if taken with other antiviral medications or in patients who consume large amounts of alcohol.