US health officials are urging doctors to prescribe a daily prevention pill to anyone at high risk of HIV infection in new National guidelines released Thursday.
The updated guidelines, issued by the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), suggest men who have sex with men, those who inject drugs and heterosexual men and women with an HIV-positive partner should be taking a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
Studies have shown the pill, sold under the brand name Truvada, cuts the chances that someone who is still healthy becomes infected from risky sex or injection drug use.
Even though approximately 1.2 million people could benefit from PrEP, only about 100,000 people are prescribed the drug preventively, the task force says.
The new recommendations, published on Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), come on the heels of President Donald Trump's announcement of his campaign to end HIV transmissions in the US by 2030.
New recommendations issued by the US Preventive Services Task Force suggest those who are at high risk of contracting HIV take a daily pre-exposure prophylaxis pill (file image)
In the US, more than 1.1 million people are infected with HIV, the virus that leads to the potentially deadly disease AIDS. Nearly 40,000 new infections were diagnosed last year.
Once a person contracts HIV, the virus sets about attacking and destroying immune cells that normally protect the body from infection.
In the last decade, doctors have gained a much improved understanding of how to control HIV.
The rate of deaths from the disease has plummeted since the peak of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested for HIV at least once.
Those who are at higher risk, including men who have sex with men or those who have a sexual partner who is HIV positive, should be tested as often as once a year or more.
Although HIV is treatable, the infection has no cure.
According to the USPSTF, about 15 percent of people who have HIV don't know they are infected and