News :: AIDS

Manhunt Promotes HIV Prevention Pill: ’A Choice When Condoms Are in the Way’

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Monday Dec 3, 2012
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To honor World AIDS Day, gay hookup site Manhunt announced that it would be promoting Truvada, a daily HIV preventative pill that was recently approved by the FDA, as "a choice when condoms are in the way."

"Manhuntâ„¢ will promote Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for this year’s World AIDS Day," a statement form the website’s officials read. "Manhunt is the world’s largest online and mobile sexual networking site for gay men. This is the first time a worldwide promotion of Truvada, the recently approved U.S. FDA HIV Prevention Pill, has appeared on the site.

"Manhunt has partnered with Gladstone Institutes’ Dr. Robert Grant and The Fenway Institute to assure that the information conveyed is accurate and consistent with peer-reviewed published science. This promotion is part of Manhunt’s 2012 Social Responsibility Initiative, and it is entirely self-funded."

The statement goes on to say that the promotion was sent to over 2.5 million guys that use Manhunt on World AIDS Day, which was on Saturday, with the tagline: "HIV Prevention Pill for Negative Men (and women too): A choice when condoms are in the way or not enough?"

Manhunt’s campaign also encourages users to checkout their health website, Manhunt Cares, which is a "dedicated PrEP page to learn more about this important biomedical intervention."

On July 16, the FDA approved Truvada, which is a fixed-dose combination of two antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV. The pill, however, hasn’t been praised by everyone and has received its share of criticism. The New York Times points out that health officials were initially worried about how to make sure doctors and patients would use the drug correctly, since the pill can have side effects for users and their sexual partners.

The drug is recommended for people who are not infected with the deadly virus but are at high risk of becoming infected, like gay men who have several sexual partners and do not use condoms, prostitutes and people in relationships with someone who is HIV positive.

But some argue that the pill has already been over prescribed and some worry that this may cause viral resistance, which would make patients harder to treat and the powerful virus could potentially spread to other people. To avoid this, health officials say that people taking Truvada, which is developed by Gilead Sciences Inc., would have to make sure they are HIV negative and be tested regularly, but experts acknowledged there is no way to make sure people on the drug would actually get tested as often as they should.

The San Francisco Chronicle talked with Dr. Robert Grant, a University of California, San Francisco professor and research with the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology, and asked him about the negative impacts of Truvada.

"Maybe 1 in 10 people using Truvada had some side effects in the first few weeks of use, but those side effects typically resolved," Grant told the newspaper. "The side effects included nausea, abdominal cramping, dizziness, headaches and sometimes tingling of skin. These were the things we heard about. In other studies, flatulence was a concern, but we did not see that."

When asked if Truvada could potentially increase the spread of HIV by "giving people a sense of security that may encourage risky sexual practices," Grant said it has "been a concern" but his research found that when people started taking the pill "they decreased the number of partners they had and used condoms more frequently."

Grant added, however, that condoms are also highly effective if used but added that people who don’t use condoms can "benefit from PrEP" and that "both condoms or PreEP are more than 90 percent effective when used consistently."

It should be noted that Truvada does not protect against STDs.

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