While at the 2015 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) this week, Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases, sat down with Dr. Jonathan Mermin, Director of CDC’s National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, to talk about some of the significant scientific findings being discussed here at the meeting.
PrEP Advances in Spotlight
They discussed pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which was among the topics explored in several presentations at the conference on February 24. PrEP is a way for people who don’t have HIV to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day. The pill contains two medicines that are also used to treat HIV. If you take PrEP and are exposed to HIV through sex or injection drug use, these medicines can work to keep the virus from taking hold in your body.
During the interview, Dr. Mermin observes, “The research presented at the conference continues to support the power of PrEP to prevent HIV infection and increasingly we are seeing that the challenge is how do we help people take daily PrEP in sometimes difficult circumstances, regularly, so they can get maximum effect from the medication.”
After Dr. Valdiserri underscores the importance of ensuring that providers are aware of PrEP as an effective HIV prevention intervention, Dr. Mermin reminds us that, in an effort to support health care providers, last year CDC issued guidelines on the use of PrEP for the prevention of HIV infection in the United States.
In a CDC press release about two of the PrEP studies highlighted at CROI 2015, Dr. Mermin later observed, “We applaud ongoing efforts like IPERGAY to identify PrEP dosing strategies that may be more acceptable than oral daily dosing for some individuals at risk, and could potentially lower costs. In addition, researchers are working to identify alternative delivery vehicles, including injectable PrEP and insertable products such as a vaginal ring. These are exciting avenues for research.
We encourage people at substantial risk for HIV infection to take steps to reduce their risk, including speaking with their doctor about PrEP. Daily, oral PrEP is recommended by CDC as an option for men who have sex with men, heterosexual men and women, and injection drug users.”
CDC Analysis: 90% of New HIV Infections Coming from Individuals Unaware of their Infection or Not in Care
Drs. Valdiserri and Mermin also discussed a new CDC analysis published this week as the conference opened indicating that 90% of transmissions of HIV in the United States are coming from either people who have HIV and don’t know it or know they have HIV but are not receiving regular HIV medical care.
Dr. Mermin observes that this understanding helps us better focus efforts needed to reduce HIV incidence in the United States. “We could prevent the vast majority of new infections tomorrow by improving the health of people living with HIV today,” he observes in a CDC press release.
Watch this brief video summary of the new analysis: