Verify: Can a pill prevent HIV?

You may have seen these billboards around Austin. KVUE noticed them largely because of what they promise: A pill that prevents HIV.

You may have seen some billboards around Austin that promise a pill that prevents HIV. KVUE staff saw them, too, and went straight to the source to verify.

The ads belong to a program by Texas Health Action called Kind Clinic -- a health facility focused on building stronger relationships with the LGBTQ community

Kind Clinic told KVUE the pill the ads reference is Truvada -- also known as PrEP. It stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. Staff said the pill reduces the risk of HIV infection by 99 percent, if taken daily.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the number at "more than 90% when used…among people who inject drugs, it reduces the risk by more than 70%. Your risk of getting HIV from sex can be even lower if you combine PrEP with condoms and other prevention methods.”

The Food and Drug Administration approved Truvada in July of 2012.  According to their website  “it is a combination of two drugs, emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, and is used to block the action of a protein that HIV needs to replicate in a person’s body.”

Staff at the clinic said 1,500 patients sought out their services for the preventive pill in the last two years.

"The difference between Truvada used as prep is you only take that one pill, for someone who is living with HIV you would take a pill like Truvada and then intergrase inhibitor or protease inhibitor and you take that medication for the rest of your life. As opposed to prevention medication that people can choose to go on or go off of it,” said Texas Health Action Executive Director Joe McAdams.

The billboard's claim is verified. There is a pill that is effective at preventing HIV.

Kind Clinic services such as HIV and STI testing, STI treatment, general wellness exams, navigation and medication access services, as well as PrEP are low to no cost to patients. Once PrEP is prescribed, patients are asked to make routine visits to the clinic for blood work every one to three months.

AIDS Services of Austin is also expanding their services, offering primary and specialty care through a new integrated facility. This would include free HIV and STI testing, case management, fresh groceries, housing assistance programs, dental services, health insurance assistance and various peer group support networks.

Staff said one in eight people don’t know their status.  

“ASA conducts over 1,600 HIV tests a year. We are seeing an increase in the number of people living with HIV as transmission still takes place locally, as well as, with our rising population more people living with HIV are relocating here. More people means a larger demand for access to both care and prevention services.”

The clinic is set to open in the spring of 2018, after a million dollar donation from the Moody Foundation, said communications coordinator Taylor Stockett. They said their goal is to “increase access to quality medical care in Austin that is life affirming and stigma free.”

ASA is also sponsoring a client holiday program, there are currently 22 clients still in need of a sponsor. The deadline for a gift drop-off is Dec. 13.

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© 2017 KVUE-TV


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