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.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

If We Could Eradicate HIV, Would We?

I'm amazed at the enthusiasm for a program to distribute massively expensive drugs to people to prevent a disease that is difficult to transmit sexually, when the proposed targets are chosen by reference to their sexual behavior (or their assumed sexual behavior). Especially when funding for antiretroviral programs is being cut, even for people already on treatment.

But the really amazing thing is how many people suffer from preventable and treatable conditions, such as parasites. The numbers of people run into hundreds of millions, even billions. Yet the drugs to prevent, treat and completely eradicate these illnesses have been around for decades and cost very little. Examples are lymphatic filiarisis (elephantiasis), schistosomiasis (bilhartzia) and onchocerciasis.

In fact, many of the things that people in developing countries suffer from the most and die from most often are also easily preventable and treatable. Most relate to poor living conditions and lack of or no access to clean water and sanitation. In other words, the majority of people need very low tech solutions, which are also basic human rights, without which people's lives will be blighted and most will eventually die unnecessarily, or unnecessarily early.

It seems there are few arguments for rolling out a very expensive program that may possibly prevent a small number of transmissions of a virus that infects a relatively small number of people until the far easier and cheaper jobs that will save billions of people have been accomplished first.


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