Physicians considering the use of anti-HIV medication to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV through heterosexual sex should ensure that patients are confirmed to be uninfected prior to use and provided regular testing and other key prevention services, according to new interim guidance published today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This strategy, called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, may be used by HIV-uninfected individuals to reduce their risk of HIV infection by taking a daily dose of medications that are also used for treating HIV. When used consistently and in combination with other prevention methods, it may offer an additional means to prevent infection for some men and women at very high risk.
The guidance on the use of PrEP among heterosexually-active women and men in the United States was published today in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The guidance is based on the results of two large international clinical trials in which PrEP was found to significantly reduce the risk of HIV infection through heterosexual sex. The guidance supplements existing CDC PrEP interim guidance for men who have sex with men (MSM), and is designed to ensure physicians that may be prescribing PrEP have accurate information and key cautions on its safe and effective use.
“With 50,000 new HIV infections every year in the United States, we urgently need additional prevention options,” said Kevin Fenton, M.D., director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and Tuberculosis Prevention. “To facilitate the safe and effective use of PrEP as an additional tool, the guidance we’re releasing today gives health care providers information to help them evaluate and support its use for their patients who may be considering this method.”
On July 16, 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the combination medication tenofovir disoproxil fumarate plus emtricitabine (TDF/FTC) for use as PrEP among adults at risk for sexually acquired HIV infection.
Today’s interim guidance for heterosexually-active women and men includes cautions and recommendations similar to those provided in CDC’s interim guidance on PrEP for MSM (released in January 2011), as well as a number of new recommendations relevant to women of reproductive age and to couples in which one partner is HIV-positive and the other is HIV-negative. The main points of the guidance:
“PrEP could help to reduce new HIV infections in the United States, if it is used consistently and effectively in combination with all available prevention strategies,” said Jonathan Mermin, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention. “Its overall impact will also be determined by acceptability and access among the populations at highest risk and whether programs implemented in community settings can achieve the key requirements for success, including ensuring regular HIV testing, maintaining high levels of medication adherence, and preventing increases in risk behavior.”
Demonstration projects and research studies by CDC and others are now underway in several U.S. cities and other countries to begin to assess these and other key implementation questions. Outcomes of these studies of PrEP use in real world settings will help determine how PrEP can most effectively be used in the United States.