The anti-retroviral drug Truvada; Author- Jeffrey Beall’s own work, from Wikimedia Commons
A recent study has delighted many by claims that taking the pill Truvada prevents HIV infection. The study is one of the first to test the pill in a real-world setting involving 600 individuals at risk of getting HIV in San Francisco, CA. Although promising, the applicability of the pill to other settings still warrants further analyses.

The study is convincing for its testing on a large number of participants (the more there are the better) and for including a lengthy follow-up. However, one of the biggest drawbacks of this study is that it lacks testing on a control group, which would entail giving a non-effective pill to a group of people that are very similar to the group of people taking the real pill. This would importantly clarify how big a difference the pill really makes. Furthermore, knowing the cost of making and distributing enough pills to allow a population to take it daily in settings which need it the most, such as Sub-Saharan Africa, would be crucial for its applicability. Promisingly, there are many ongoing studies on Truvada’s effect in other places around the world, including one on a different demographic group in South Africa, which should help in understanding the pill’s effectiveness in other settings.

Edited by SITN Waves correspondent Ankita Shastri. Many thanks to Daria Van Tyne for her insight and comments on the story. Daria is a post-doctoral researcher at the Harvard Medical School.

1. News story
2. Original Scientific Article-Volk, Jonathan E., et al. “No New HIV Infections with Increasing Use of HIV Preexposure Prophylaxis in a Clinical Practice Setting.” Clinical Infectious Diseases (2015): civ778.

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