Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) involves putting HIV negative people on antiretroviral drugs (ARV) with the aim of protecting them from HIV infection. This blog looks at some of the pros and cons of PrEP.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Opposition is Real, it's the Defense that is Fabricated

In an article entitled "The Abandoned Trials of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis for HIV: What Went Wrong?", Singh and Mills make the very assumption about PrEP that they are not in a position to make: that it may be useful for women involved in commercial sex work. As is clear from a number of studies, high prevalence of HIV is not very closely related to sexual behavior nor to 'high risk' groups, such as commercial sex workers.

Therefore, we are still in the dark about how PrEP should be used. Making PrEP available to low risk groups would be ridiculous, but I think that is what the pharmaceutical companies involved would like; to put lots of healthy people on drugs that they need to take in large quantities for much of their adult life.

The authors of the paper try to use seemingly reasonable arguments and suggest that the industry needs to be 'proactive' in its dealings with those who oppose the creation of markets for useless pharmaceutical products, taking advantage of cheap research subjects in developing countries. But by 'proactive', they seem to be recommending that the industry get in quickly and preempt any potential opposition.

They talk approvingly and rather naively about the involvement of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in getting both sides together, as if the foundation is anything other than a major part of the HIV industry that stands to profit handsomely from its investments in Big Pharma.

Differences between activists and the HIV industry are not mere 'ideology'. Activists are not convinced that PrEP has anything to offer anyone but the pharmaceutical industry. Yes, the goal is combating Aids and the target is people who are HIV positive (and those who are at risk of becoming infected). But PrEP is irrelevant to both of those. So activists will continue to oppose it.


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