Canada begins trialling HIV prevention drug Truvada

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Canada has begun to trial the use of a controversial drug that lowers your chances of getting HIV.

Truvada is a drug taken as part of a Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) regime – taken as a daily pill by people who do not have HIV, to minimise the risk of catching the virus from others.

It was approved in the US last year and is growing in popularity – but it is still pending approval in most other countries, despite endorsement by the World Health Organisation.

Canada has this month launched its first trial of Truvada as an HIV-preventative drug – the first hurdle to getting it approved for public use in the country.

The trial is being conducted at St Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, in collaboration with a number of gay charities and HIV/AIDS groups, and aims to evaluate the pill’s effectiveness.

It states: “Canada continues to see an unrelenting stream of new HIV diagnoses, with a disproportionate burden among gay, bisexual, and other MSM in major centers such as Toronto. ”

“There is now widespread mobilization to assess the feasibility of PrEP roll-out worldwide, with urgent calls for ‘demonstration projects’ addressing real-world PrEP implementation issues.

“PREPARATORY-5 is Canada’s first PrEP demonstration project, and will examine real-world PrEP implementation issues including acceptability, effectiveness, impact on sexually transmitted infections, and strategies for supporting adherence outside the clinical trial setting.

“The investigators have also established a comprehensive community-based research program investigating the role of community-based organizations in PrEP implementation and delivery.”

In the UK, a two-year study into whether PrEP should be routinely made available on the NHS for gay and bisexual men is taking place – but is not due to report for some time.

However, the study’s steering committee last month recommended it be fast-tracked, due to the “significant progress” made so far – a move that could see PrEP available across the UK sooner than expected.

The drug is not without controversy, however, and has been met with condemnation from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, despite the majority of HIV groups backing it.

The AHF claims that Truvada will wrongly be seen as an alternative to condoms, and points out that the pill’s effectiveness is decreased when it is not taken daily – with the group’s President Michael Weinstein labelling it a “party drug”.