CA to test HIV treatment pill for possible preventative use

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A pharmacist pours Truvada pills back into the bottle in San Anselmo, California. New grants will fund a study into whether the pill can be used as an HIV preventative.

A pill which has long served as treatment for the HIV-positive may now work on double-duty as an HIV preventative. Researchers announced Tuesday that they will be testing the pill as a preventative in about 700 gay and bisexual men, and transgendered women, in the Los Angeles and SoCal area.

"The ideal candidate for this kind of pill would be somebody who is repeatedly at high risk of infection," said Phil Curtis, director of government affairs for AIDS Project Los Angeles. The nonprofit will be helping to recruit study participants.

According to Curtis, studies have shown up to a 90 percent drop in new infections among high-risk subjects using the drug, under the brand name Truvada. The drug has already been approved by the FDA for treating HIV, but not for preventative use.

Curtis says that Gilead Sciences, who produces the drug, has applied to get the new use approved.

The California HIV/AIDS Research Program has awarded $11.8 million in state grants for preventative pill studies, including the one involving Truvada.

"The California and L.A. County AIDS epidemic is significantly driven by men," says Curtis. "[Gay men] account for 80-85 percent of all HIV positive cases."

According to the Center for Aids Research and Education Purposes, California has the second highest HIV/AIDS incidence rate in the U.S. after New York.

Over two-thirds of all of those in California living with HIV live in L.A. County or the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Truvada study will last four years before any results are announced.

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