Hello everyone! This past week, there was some really exciting and encouraging news in the battle against HIV and AIDS. Specifically, the news surrounded the drug, Truvada, which is used to help prevent the spread of HIV. The drug (a combination of Tenofovir and Emtricitibine) is a pre-exposure prophylactic drug (PrEP) that is taken only once a day by persons at high risk of contracting HIV, such as someone whose partner is already infected with HIV.
A new study by researchers at UCLA looked at the major side effects caused by Truvada and compared them to those commonly for aspirin. The researches reviewed five studies on PrEPs for HIV and two studies on aspirin for cardiovascular health in order to conduct some statistical analyses on the frequency and severity of symptoms. Overall, there were fewer reported side effects for Truvada than for aspirin. Moreover, the number needed to harm (NNH) for many of the Truvada side effects were less than aspirin’s NNHs. The major side effects for Truvada include weight loss, nausea, vomiting and some mild elevation in liver enzymes and serum creatinine. To be fair, aspirin and Truvada have their own unique targets and are metabolized differently in the body, so you can’t truly compare the two drugs apples to apples. However, statistically, taking Truvada for HIV PrEP once a day will do no more harm (if not less) than taking aspirin once a day for heart health.
Even though the study is basically some number crunching of a few drug-trials, the importance of it should not be underestimated! The topic of HIV/AIDS is surrounded by so much fear and stigma; it’s hard enough getting a person infected with HIV to regularly take their medications, but it can be even harder to convince someone without HIV to take a pill for something they don’t have. Getting the word out that this drug is effective and safe will definitely help!