With 1.2 million individuals living with HIV in the United States alone, and 36.7 million individuals living with it worldwide, a preventive medication that can be taken by those at increased risk is imperative. Once someone gets the virus, the individual has it for life, and without antiretroviral therapy (ART), their condition can become more severe, even deadly.
In order to cut down these numbers, preventive measures should be taken, especially by those who find themselves at increased risk of infection. One of the strongest preventive measures currently available is PrEP
, or pre-exposure prophylaxis. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC
), when antiviral drugs, such as Truvada, are taken consistently and on a daily basis, they can reduce the risk of acquiring HIV by over 90%.
The CDC has provided the public with guidelines
pertaining to PrEP as a means to prevent HIV within the United States. Though helpful, a new study
conducted by researchers from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health posit that the guidelines may not be specific enough to identify certain PrEP candidates.
Since 2012, the CDC has recommended that the following individuals should use PrEP: gay or bisexual men who engage in anal sex without condoms, those who within the past six months have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease, and men who do not have the virus but have sexual relations or are in relationships with someone who is HIV-positive.
Although these recommendations are certainly helpful, the authors of the UCLA study
, published in Sexually Transmitted Diseases
, posit that the guidelines “do not go far enough” in that they do not include essential variables that could work to increase an individual’s risk of infection, according to a press release
on the study.
Working in collaboration with the one of the biggest HIV testing providers in Los Angeles county—the Los Angeles LGBT Center—the UCLA researchers developed an online risk assessment calculator
, a tool that allows individuals to check their “PrEP score” by answering a series of questions that address a number of different variables that might put them at increased risk of infection.
When speaking of the calculator in the press release, study co-author Robert Weiss, PhD, professor of biostatistics at the Fielding School, said, “To the best of our knowledge, this PrEP Calculator is the first of its kind to be based on real-world data. We hope that our PrEP calculator will allow more [men who have sex with men (MSM)] to make a more informed decision before deciding whether or not PrEP is right for them.”