A long-acting shot could be the next frontier in reducing the risk of HIV, new research shows. The Associated Press reports that monkeys were completely protected from the disease in two separate studies.
If the success rate is the same when tested on humans, the shot, which could be administered every one to three months, could provide an alternative form of prevention and replace the daily pills that HIV-positive people currently take to reduce their risk of catching their partner’s disease.
The findings provide another alternative until a vaccine is created. Condoms are one of the most effective forms of HIV prevention, although the drug Truvada was found to cut the risk of contracting HIV by 90 percent, depending how consistently people take their pills. Truvada is also used to treat people who already have HIV.
"This is the most exciting innovation in the field of HIV prevention that I've heard recently," said Dr. Robert Grant, an AIDS expert at the Gladstone Institutes, a foundation affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco.
"Both groups are showing 100 percent protection" with the drug, Grant said of the two groups of researchers. "If it works and proves to be safe, it would allow for HIV to be prevented with periodic injections, perhaps every three months."
The drug, which is referred to by its experimental name GSK744, crystallizes in the blood, where it remains and is released slowly over time, Dr. David Ho of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York, told NBC News. The report says that GSK744 has the same potential to prevent HIV as contraceptives have achieved in preventing unwanted pregnancies.
The report, conducted by researchers at Rockefeller University in New York and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was presented at an AIDS conference in Boston on Tuesday.
HIV has taken more than 25 million lives and more than 35 million people are living with the disease globally. HIV-infected people currently take a combination of powerful drugs to stay healthy, while drugs can also protect people from infection and reduce the chance of HIV-positive people passing on the the disease.