To date, over 230,000 African Americans have died of AIDS - nearly 40 percent of total deaths - and of the more than 1 million people living with HIV in the U.S. today, almost half are Black.
So it’s understandable why the blockbuster news that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a drug to ‘prevent’ HIV infection has gone viral. But not so fast! Health professionals around the world warn, taking one pill a day will ‘not’ end the single largest pandemic of all time. Thursday a panel of experts recommended that the FDA approve the drug Truvada for preventing HIV in men who have sex with men, HIV-negative partners of HIV-positive people and other individuals at risk for acquiring HIV through sexual activity. Shortly after the FDA announcement, a father whose son died of AIDS in 2007 proclaimed on a local radio talk show the “the battle against HIV has been won.” Nothing can be further from the truth. While the expert panel’s recommendation is welcome news, it could have unintended consequences. A caller into the show asked, ‘does this mean I don’t have to use a condom if I take this pill?’
In this era of ‘just for the fun of it sex’, social networking and deliberate misinformation by media and some drug companies, high profile marketing like this can be dangerously misleading. Abstinence and the use of condoms are still the best ways to prevent HIV and STD (sexually transmitted disease).
Truvada first made headlines in 2010 when government researchers showed it could prevent people from contracting HIV. Truvada needs to be taken every day, 100% of the time. My nearly half century of experience as a physician tells me that won't happen. The correct and consistent use of latex condoms during sexual intercourse- vaginal, anal, or oral-can greatly reduce a person’ s risk of acquiring or transmitting most STDs, including HIV infection, gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomonas, human papilloma virus infection (HPV), and hepatitis B.
Any effective, sustained effort to tackle HIV/AIDS in the US should have positive outcomes for African Americans seeing as they constitute such a large proportion of the overall epidemic. The CDC's acknowledgement of and research into entrenched social factors, such as poverty, which are a major contributor to the ongoing HIV transmission rate, is a positive step and should be reflected in all concrete action taken to reverse the trend of HIV transmission in the African American community.
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