AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — Nearly 37,000 people in the US were diagnosed with HIV in 2019 alone. An oral prevention pill is already on the market, but now there’s a new weapon in the fight against HIV — a preventative injection.
“The pill works very well. It’s in the category, and so is the injection, of what we call PreP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis. The pill works very well if you take it,” Dr. Rodger MacArthur of AU Health said.
Dr. MacArthur says the issue with the pill, though it is effective, is that people often forget to take it daily.
“Folks get tired of taking their medication every day, just like they get tired of taking their blood pressure medicine every day,” Dr. MacArthur said.
The injection, approved Monday, is administered once every two months.
“The oral medication works really, really well if you take it. But over time, such as in this trial, adherence and daily use of the pill wore off but the vaccine did not,” MacArthur said.
The injection is not a cure for HIV. Patients must test negative for the virus before receiving the injection each time.
“It’s a good start, but it’s not a home run. Let’s put it that way,” says MacArthur. “This will most likely result in fewer HIV infections, but it’s not going to eliminate new infections in the United States or elsewhere in the world.”
The FDA says it expects the injection will lower HIV infection among at-risk adults and adolescents.
“The big risk factor is in the group of men who have sex with men, the group that was studied in this trial. That also points out a limitation of this trial. It was not studied in women. It will be studied in women, but it has not yet been studied in women,” MacArthur said.
MacArthur says it’s important to practice additional ways of HIV prevention.
“Not injecting drugs, for instance, participating in safer sex activities, wearing condoms for instance,” MacArthur said.
Those who are HIV positive are not eligible for the injection, but they are able to receive HIV medications and treatments.