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A new study finds people who inject drugs can cut their risk of developing HIV in half by taking a daily antiretroviral medication, The New York Times reports. The study provides the first evidence that the treatment, known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), offers significant protection to people exposed to HIV through injection drug use, the researchers said.

The study found the treatment can prevent AIDS in every group at risk for the disease. The study included 2,400 drug users in Thailand. Participants in the study who took tenofovir, a drug currently used to treat people already infected with HIV, were 49 percent less likely to become infected with HIV than those who did not take the medication. Those who took the drug on a regular basis had even better results—they were 74 percent less likely to become infected with HIV.

Study participants received $8.75 for each month they stayed in the trial and received daily pills under a nurse’s supervision. They got an additional $8.75 per week for each week they showed up every day, plus $1.90 for every day they came. Participants who did not receive drugs came in once a month, and were paid to keep diaries of their drug use.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supported the research, the article notes. The study is published in The Lancet.

“This is a significant step forward for HIV prevention. We now know that PrEP can work for all populations at increased risk for HIV,” Jonathan Mermin, MD, Director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said in a news release. “Injection drug use accounts for a substantial portion of the HIV epidemic around the world, and we are hopeful that PrEP can play a role in reducing the continued toll of HIV infection in this population.”


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