New York: The United Nations agency leading the global HIV/AIDS response today maintained its strong support for a combined approach to prevent new HIV infections among injecting drug users, while welcoming a new study of the positive impact of an antiretroviral medicine.
"Piece by piece scientific advances are paving the way to the end of the AIDS epidemic," said Michel Sidib, Executive Director of the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), welcoming the findings that an antiretroviral, taken daily, can reduce the risk of HIV infection by nearly half in HIV-negative man and women who inject drugs.
"The full potential of antiretroviral therapy in keeping people alive and well and in preventing new HIV infections is becoming apparent," Sidib added.
The new study conducted by the Thai Ministry of Public Health, the United States Centers for Disease Control and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, enrolled approximately 1,930 men and 482 women who were HIV-negative and who injected drugs in Bangkok.
It found that the men and women who took a daily dose of the antiretroviral medicine tenofovir as oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) were 49 per cent less likely to become infected with HIV than the volunteers who took the placebo.
"The results of this study are important and if used effectively in HIV programming could have a significant impact in protecting people who inject drugs from becoming infected with HIV,` Mr. Sidib noted. The latest study complements results from several PrEP trials released over the past few years.
He stressed, however, that UNAIDS does not believe that a single intervention is completely protective in preventing HIV transmission, and supports combination harm reduction measures, such as provision of clean needles and syringes, opioid substitution therapy, accessible health care services together with the removal of punitive laws and collaboration with police and law enforcement strategies have proved effective in preventing new HIV infections among people who inject drugs.