New PrEP test in Orlando seeks to make LGBTQ life easier, safer

By : Billy Manes
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ORLANDO – It wasn’t long ago that the notion of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP – effectively a preventative medicine involving known HIV/AIDS treatment Truvada – was a pipe dream in terms of prevention. But it’s working. In 2012, following approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, immunology doctors in Orlando started doing research.

“PrEP was approved for use in 2012,” Dr. Edwin DeJesus of the Orlando Immunology Clinic says. “Within six months, we started to do some work here.”

That work continues now with a new experimental variation, one that might decrease some of the side effects earlier iterations have produced. But PrEP, DeJesus says, isn’t just a medication or a pharmaceutical prophylactic.

“PrEP is a point,” DeJesus says. “There are a lot of people who think that PrEP is Truvada (an HIV treatment) or PrEP is [just] a pill, but you have to follow that up with a bunch of things that are taken care of before or after. It is a commitment and not a pill.”

As such, the nature of the treatment is being refined. This new study – one which will eventually involve 500 people in the city and 5,000 nationwide – is focusing on effects on kidney dysfunction and bone issues, both of which have been seen in patients using Truvada as a catch-all. Importantly, though, the Centers for Disease Control still recommends PrEP for MSM people with active sex lives.

Like most clinical tests, volunteer patients will be given multiple medications: Truvada and/or the new medications under investigation for prevention and treatment.

“The FDA doesn’t want patients to know which pills they are taking,” DeJesus says. “In order to prevent bias, the patients will be given both pills.”

It’s been a huge step forward in the fight against HIV/AIDS, DeJesus says. The advent of PrEP has seen a 99 percent decrease in infection rates.

At present, OIC has welcomed 50 people to the study and expects 500 in the next six months. For more information, call 407-917-7370 or go to this link.

“Considering there is no vaccine, there is no other pill have not stopped HIV rates from increasing. We need more aggressive measures in place to prevent HIV,” DeJesus says. “Counseling, abstinence and protection are not going to work on their own.”

Science, however, just might.

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