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The findings of a new study suggests that the proper use of antiviral HIV “cocktail” drugs cuts the risk of transmission from one person to another down to virtually zero.
In a study published this month in the medical journal The Lancet, researchers from across Europe indicate that virally suppressive antiretroviral therapy (ART) drugs not only significantly reduce the viral load of HIV, but they also appeared to eliminate the transmission of the virus from one partner to another when no other protection was used.
The researchers conducted two prospective observational studies at 75 sites in 14 European Countries from September 2010 to July 31, 2017. They looked at gay and heterosexual couples, where one partner was HIV positive and who reported condomless sex and the use of suppressive HIV drugs.
According to the findings, the only incidents of HIV transmission occurred when the non-infected partner had sex with an infected person outside of their relationship. In no cases did the infected partner taking antiretroviral drugs like Truvada, Atripla, Complera and Stribild, transmit the disease to their partners.
“Our results provide a similar level of evidence on viral suppression and HIV transmission risk for gay men to that previously generated for heterosexual couples and suggest that the risk of HIV transmission in gay couples through condomless sex when HIV viral load is suppressed is effectively zero,” the researchers concluded. “Our findings support the message of the U=U (undetectable equals untransmittable) campaign, and the benefits of early testing and treatment for HIV.”
HIV Drug Toxicity Concerns
The findings of this latest study come amid growing concerns that Giliead, who developed a number of HIV drugs known as tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) drugs, knew the medications were toxic and held out on less toxic alternatives until the patents on the more toxic drugs ran out, in order to increase its profits.
The widely used drugs include Truvada, Viread, Atripla and several others. Most are combinations of several drugs required to suppress the viral load in HIV and AIDs patients.
Gilead faces a growing number of HIV drug lawsuits filed nationwide by patients who say it is now pushing less toxic tenofovir alafenamide fumarate (TAF) drugs, even though it knew the drug was safer 10 years ago. The company shelved TAF in 2004 and did not begin selling TAF-designed drugs until 2015, plaintiffs argue. Patent protections for TDF drugs began expiring last year.