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The FDA approved the drug Truvada on Monday to be used to reduce the risk of HIV infection, a potential watershed in the ongoing battle to contain the spread of HIV and AIDS.
The Associated Press explains that the drug has been on the market since 2004, when it was approved to treat people already infected with HIV. But studies have since showed that Truvada reduces the risk of HIV infection in many healthy people, including a 42 percent drop for men who have sex with men, provided they also used condoms and accepted counseling. Another study showed the drug reduced the risk of infection by 75 percent for heterosexual couples in which one partner was infected and the other was not.
As supportive research mounted, many doctors already began prescribing the drug as a preventative measure, the AP notes. FDA support means Truvada can now be marketed specifically for that use. Some advocacy groups had raised concerns that the drug could lead people to believe they are protected when they are not—among other reservations—but FDA scientists noted no increase in risky behavior by people given the drug.
Researchers estimate that 50,000 new cases of HIV are contracted a year, a steady rate for 15 years. About 1.2 million Americans are infected overall—including an estimated 200,000 who don’t know their status.