New HIV cases among gay and bisexual men in these regions fell by almost a third, the lowest on record
A blue antiviral pill has reportedly led to an unprecedented reduction in new HIV cases among men across Sydney and other parts of Australia, Bloomberg reported quoting a Lancet HIV medical journal.
New HIV cases among gay and bisexual men in these regions fell by almost a third, the lowest on record, according to the world’s first study to measure the impact of Gilead Sciences’ Truvada pill on reducing the AIDS-causing virus in a large population.
The number of new HIV infections in gay and bisexual men in the state of New South Wales stood at 102 in the first year after the study began, compared with 149 infections in the 12 months prior, the report said.
"The speed of the decline we’ve seen in new HIV infections in gay and bisexual men is a world first," study leader Andrew Grulich, Head of HIV Epidemiology and Prevention at the Kirby Institute of the University of New South Wales said, adding that these numbers are the lowest on record since HIV surveillance began in 1985.
This result may pave the way for other states and countries to stop transmission of the virus with the use of a treatment called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, the report said. This has also shown that a targeted, preventative approach may accelerate progress on ending the AIDS epidemic.
The progress made against the spread of AIDs over the past 15 years has pushed the UN member states to end the epidemic by 2030. The number of people newly infected with HIV fell to 1.8 million worldwide in 2017, from more than 3 million a year through most of the 1990s.
According to a UN report, new HIV infections in India fell from 1.2 lakh in 2010 to 88,000 in 2017. AIDS-related deaths fell from 1.6 lakh to 69,000 in the same period. Even the number of people living with HIV in the country came down to 21 lakh at the end of 2017, from 23 lakh at the end of 2010.
While the results of this study can not be generalized to indicate similar efficacy in heterosexual populations, they do demonstrate that PrEP is 'highly cost-effective' in certain high-risk groups, Grulich told the news agency.
"While we’ve known for at least three or four years now of individual-level efficacy of PrEP, there has been some reticence around the world by policymakers to properly fund the rollout of PrEP because the population impact hasn’t been shown — and that’s what we set out to do," Grulich said.
About 1.8 million people in the US were taking Truvada for PrEP as of June end, Robin L Washington, Gilead’s Chief Financial Officer, had said in a conference call in July.
After a positive effect on HIV infections, Truvada's use is likely to go up.
"We see the nice steady growth of Truvada for the use of PrEP," Gilead’s Chief Executive Officer John F Milligan told the Morgan Stanley Global Health Care Conference last month, adding that areas of the US with the highest uptake of PrEP had achieved some of the best reductions in HIV infections.
The blue, oval-shaped pill is a fixed-dose combination of the drugs tenofovir, disoproxil and emtricitabine. Generic versions of Truvada made by Mylan NV, Cipla and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries have made the medication available more cheaply.Milligan added that they will be working on a number of things in the coming year that could really increase the number of patients on PrEP.