Doctors say people who are HIV positive can live long and normal lives, thanks to modern medicine. Part of that medicine includes a daily dose of the drug Truvada. But tests showed Truvada can help prevent HIV as well, and so the FDA has now given doctors the green light to prescribe it to patients who are at high risk for contracting HIV.
Katy Caldwell is the executive director of Legacy Community Health Services in the Montrose area. They specialize in HIV/Aids testing and treatment.
"People need to understand that this is not take a pill, one pill and then go out have fun whatever and you’re not going to get HIV. It’s not that at all. It's ongoing therapy. It’s not for everybody. It shouldn’t be for everybody, and it still needs to be combined with safer sex practices to be really effective."
Caldwell says there is already an effective so-called morning after pill for people who may have been exposed to HIV. She says doctors use it all the time if they’ve been pricked by a bloody needle that may contain the virus. But Truvada is the first drug the FDA says can be used before exposure ever takes place. And to some, that’s not necessarily such a good thing.
Doctor Natalie Vanek treats patients for all sorts of sexually transmitted diseases. She’s afraid some people will now think they can just take a pill and go engage in risky behavior.
"No one wants this to become, like just take a pill and go have sex unprotected. We have a huge syphilis epidemic going on here in Houston that we are trying to battle."
Dr. Vanek says there’s no guarantee any of the people in those categories she mentioned would ever get access to Truvada in the first place. She says Truvada isn’t cheap.
"Truvada costs over $500 dollars for a 30 day supply, so unless people have insurance that’s going to be a big hurdle and then getting insurance companies to pay for it if the patient is HIV negative, that’s going to be a big hurdle."
Vanek says the ideal candidates for Truvada aren’t singles wanting to have fun. She gives the example of a couple trying to have a baby and one of them has the virus.
"We have many couples who have you know one partner who is positive and one partner who is negative and particularly for the woman who is negative and has an HIV positive husband, but they still want to try and conceive children."
The bottom line: doctors and administrators welcome the extra tool in the fight against HIV and AIDS. They’re just afraid people will begin to rely on that tool — and that they say could create a host of other problems.