On Tuesday, an influential health care panel recommended that doctors should advise a daily dose of HIV drug to healthy people who are at high risk of getting infected by the virus.
The aim is to help cut nearly 40,000 new HIV infections in the United States each year.
HIV screening is critical and the US Preventive Services Task Force reiterated its long-standing recommendation that people between the ages 15 and 65, and anyone who is pregnant, should be regularly screened, which could help start early, life-saving treatment.
However, the new guidelines went a step further.
Some studies have found that if healthy people take certain HIV drugs on a daily basis, it dramatically reduces their risk of getting infected by the virus from an HIV-positive partner or from injection drug use.
This approach is known as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). One medication called Truvada (Emtricitabine/Tenofovir) has been approved for preventive use in the United States so far.
The task force explained that PrEP is only for people who are at high risk of HIV infection, including anyone with an HIV-positive sex partner, people who have sex without a condom with someone at high risk of HIV, and people who share needles while injecting drugs.
The new guidelines were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
According to reports, many medical groups have been urging Truvada for HIV prevention; however, only 17 percent of people, who might benefit, were recommended the drug last year.
Dr. Diane Havlir and Dr. Susan Buchbinder of the University of California wrote in JAMA Internal Medicine, “How this recommendation will be implemented is of critical importance because cost is a major barrier.” They were not part of the task force.
The doctors noted that the average monthly retail cost is approximately $2,000 without insurance.
For those how are uninsured, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last month announced that Gilead Sciences Inc. has agreed to donate Truvada for more than 200,000 people a year. More than 1 million people are living with HIV infection in the United States. The Trump administration has set a goal of eradicating the country’s HIV epidemic within 10 years.