- 06.15.13 08:29 AM EDT
New evidence shows that the drugs we use to treat HIV - called antiretrovirals - can also be effective in preventing it. A major study concludes that drug addicts who are at high risk for HIV-infection had their infection rates cut in half when they took a daily pill with antiretrovirals.
Previous studies have shown similar results when trying to prevent transmission between mother and child and in high-risk gay and bisexual men.
The study looked at 2,400 drug users in Thailand who took a pill called Tenofovir. That group was 49% less likely to contract HIV than a group of similarly high-risk users -- and the more regularly they took the drug, the stronger the results: those who took it daily were 74% less likely to end up with HIV. The pills could have the biggest impact in Asia and Central Europe, where HIV transmission from sharing needles accounts for about 80% of cases.
Now that it's been shown that the pills are effective, the next step is implementing programs that gets them to the people who need them. Drug addicts are a group that traditionally is difficult to treat, often low income with poor access to medical care.