The results of a study conducted by Family Health International revealed that taking the HIV treatment drug Viread before contracting HIV may help lower the rate of infection in high-risk women, though more testing is needed to provide conclusive results. The drug or a placebo was given to 936 high-risk women in Ghana, Cameroon, and Nigeria, mostly prostitutes or women with multiple sex partners. The study found that of the 427 women given the drug, only two contracted HIV. Of the 432 who took the placebo, six contracted HIV. All women who participated in the study received counseling and free condoms.
While the results of the study are not statistically significant because of the small rate of infection, conductors of the survey are heartened by the findings, which include no adverse reactions to taking the drug in a preventative manner. The study also shows that participating in the study helped lower the number of cases of HIV contracted, as participants used condoms more frequently and lowered their number of sexual partners. Women taking the placebo were half as likely as non-participants to contract HIV, according to statistical estimates.
More studies are underway to better test whether taking Viread prior to contracting HIV is an effective means of preventing the spread of the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are currently conducting studies in Thailand, Botswana, and the US (Atlanta and San Francisco); the National Institutes of Health has plans to begin a study in Peru later this year. According to the Centre for Development and Population Activities, there are more than 17 million HIV-positive women across the globe, 77 percent of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa.