Experts believe doctors should take extra steps to help patients avoid HIV, according to a new report.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently drafted a new set of recommendations that would for the first time urge doctors to offer a daily prophylactic pill to patients at risk of contracting human immunodeficiency virus.
They propose a drug called pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP, which can help stop the spread of HIV. It can reduce the risk of catching HIV by up to 92 percent if used consistently, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The evidence is clear: when taken as prescribed, PrEP is highly effective at preventing H.I.V.,” Seth Landefeld, a USPSTF member, said in a statement. “To make a difference in the lives of people at high risk for HIV, clinicians need to identify patients who would benefit and offer them PrEP.”
The USPSTF also said doctors should be screening all patients, aged 15 to 65, for H.I.V., a recommendation first announced in 2013.
“About 40,000 people are diagnosed with H.I.V. each year. This is why the Task Force, once again, calls for universal screening for H.I.V. in adolescents and adults ages 15 to 65 years and in all pregnant women,” USPSTF member John Epling added. “People deserve to know their HIV status so, if needed, they can start treatment early and live long, healthy lives.”
Here are the patients at high risk of developing HIV, who should be prescribed PrEP, according to the panel:
- Anyone without H.I.V. who has an H.I.V.-positive sex partner
- Gay, bisexual or transgender men who have had any recent sexually transmitted infection
- Gay and bisexual men who do not use condoms consistently
- Heterosexual or transgender women who do not consistently use condoms with a high-risk sex partner, such as a bisexual man or someone who injects drugs
- Women who have had a recent STI
- Injecting drug users who share equipment
They acknowledged PrEP does have side effects, such as kidney problems and nausea, but they said the benefits of the drug outweigh the harms.
The experts also noted that PrEP helps prevent HIV but not other sexually transmitted infections. They said people who take PrEP should still use condoms and practice healthy habits that reduce the risk of other sexually transmitted infections.
Want to know more? Take a look at the full assessment here.