Daily pill offers HIV prevention for high-risk patients - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Daily pill offers HIV prevention for high-risk patients

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Dr. Martin Schiller works at the Nevada Institute for Personalized Medicine at UNLV to find a cure for HIV. (Elizabeth Watts/FOX5) Dr. Martin Schiller works at the Nevada Institute for Personalized Medicine at UNLV to find a cure for HIV. (Elizabeth Watts/FOX5)
LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are 50,000 new HIV infections in the United States each year.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a way to fight HIV. A pill approved for daily use by the Federal Drug Administration is called Truvada.

Here’s how the medicine works, in simpler terms: When HIV enters the body, it attacks healthy cells and makes copies of itself, up to several billion a day. Those go out and attack more cells.

But, in someone HIV-negative, Truvada begins to act as a shield against HIV after about three weeks of taking the PrEP daily, according to the CDC.

Physician Dr. Daliah Wachs noted the drug is for high-risk patients, which include those who are not in monogamous relationship and those who are in a relationship with someone with HIV.

Wachs said it’s the next best thing to a vaccine.

The CDC said studies showed the risk of getting infected was up to 92 percent lower for those who use it correctly.

“You need to still use safe sex practices," according to Wachs. "It doesn’t protect you against syphilis. It doesn’t protect you against hepatitis."

Wachs said the drug can only be used with regular care. Patients must take it daily and see their doctor every three months for testing to make sure they weren’t exposed to the virus, especially if they skipped the pill a few days in a row.

Researchers at the Nevada Institute for Personalized Medicine at UNLV are working to find a cure for HIV. Dr. Martin Schiller said the institute's gene-editing technique would rid the body’s cell of the virus before it could multiply using custom proteins called "talens".

“When you introduce these into the cell, they hone in and bind just to the HIV DNA and cut it with molecular scissors,” Schiller said.

When that happens, the cells basically stop making the virus.

Schiller said it works well in a petri dish and next summer with a partnership with BYU they will test on mice. The goal is to test on humans in three years, but research takes time.

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