PrEParing for HIV: An Epidemic Interventions Initiative

Researchers at the University of California are getting closer to preventing HIV/AIDS.

PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a prevention strategy that reduces the risk of getting infected with HIV by up to 99 percent. This four-year, multi-pronged series of demonstration projects targets young men who have sex with men in Los Angeles, Oakland and San Diego where participants agree to take a Truvada pill daily.

Producer Shannon Bradley was excited about the opportunity to tell the story of PrEP, both from the perspective of researchers and from those who are taking the medication. “We really appreciated how willing the doctors and the participants were to be open with us,” she said, “especially the participants. Each of these young, HIV negative men seemed to take pride in their role in these PrEP studies.”

Truvada_WrenchUC doctors and participants on PrEP explain how a daily dose of the pill Truvada can curb the spread of HIV by preventing it from replicating when it comes into contact with a host. According to Raphael Landovitz, MD, viruses like HIV can’t be killed. “I think of them as robots, and the way Truvada works is, it’s a monkey wrench that gets thrown into the gears of the robot that is HIV.”

The key, however, is consistency. To work effectively, the pill must be taken every day prior to exposure. Methods to increase adherence among the participants are also being tested, including daily reminders via text messages and tracking usage of the medication with special “Mems caps” for the pill bottles.

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