Starting next month, a Tokyo-based hospital will start a clinical study to ascertain whether HIV infection rates can be reduced if high-risk individuals take anti-viral medicine on a daily basis, a source close to the matter said Monday.
In the first such study in the nation, the Center Hospital of the National Center for Global Health and Medicine will conduct the study with individuals seen to have a higher risk of HIV infection, such as men who have sexual contact with other men, the source said.
The move comes amid reports that Japan logs around 1,500 new cases of AIDS each year, along with HIV infections among people who have not shown AIDS symptoms, despite calls for preventive measures such as the use of condoms.
Anti-viral medication is being used in an increasing number of countries to prevent the spread of HIV, the source said.
In promoting the approach, called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or Prep, the website for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “For those at very high risk for HIV, PrEP can significantly reduce your risk of HIV infection if taken daily. Daily PrEP use can lower the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90 percent.”
The method also protects against HIV infection in circumstances such as when condoms are not used or are torn, the source said.
In the two-year clinical study, the Tokyo hospital will seek 120 participants who match certain criteria, including having been infected by a sexually transmitted disease within the past year and having engaged in sexual intercourse without the use of a condom in the previous six months.
The subjects will take the anti-viral medicine Truvada daily and undergo hospital exams every three months, the source said.
The hospital will also regularly check subjects to avoid a scenario in which an HIV infection occurs and the subject continues to take the anti-viral medicine, since there is a possibility the HIV will develop resistance to the drug. This would in turn reduce the subject’s treatment options in the future.
The study will also examine whether decreased fear of HIV infection prompts people not to use condoms, increasing the risk of infection with other sexually transmitted diseases, the source said.