A Gift From God
The mix of science and religion has been a difficult subject of discussion for generations. With HIV it is simple. The breakthroughs and changes (that seem to come every few months) are part and parcel of God’s creation. The physicians who care for patients and the medications that make it impossible to spread the virus, are from His medicine chest. At Samaritan Ministry we embrace science as part of his intervention in our world, especially in the face of uncertainty and suffering. So, what does science teach us that we can apply today?
It’s not AIDS Anymore
We used to talk about AIDS disease and many organizations have used the AIDS acronym in their name, such as AIDS United in D.C., and National Minority AIDS Council (which dropped their long name and went with NMAC as a name a couple of years ago). But times have changed, and medications today make it possible, even likely, that a person diagnosed with HIV today may never get AIDS. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has even changed its web address from AIDS.gov to HIV.gov. While people still go undiagnosed and untreated HIV can develop into AIDS (advanced HIV), we truly are in a time when HIV should never become AIDS.
This moniker has really made the rounds in the HIV world since the United States Conference on HIV/AIDS in 2017. History was made when one of the world’s preeminent immunologists, Dr. Anthony Fauci, declared that “the science really does verify and validate U=U.” Later that month, because of the groundswell of data and our community’s activism, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that there is “effectively no risk” of sexual transmission of HIV when undetectable.
Undetectable = Untransmittable is the science based and universally accepted fact that HIV treatment, when done properly, can make HIV untransmittable. The CDC in a “Dear Colleague” letter dated September 27, 2017 states, “When ART (antiretroviral therapy) results in viral suppression, defined as less than 200 copies/ml or undetectable levels, it prevents sexual HIV transmission.” This news, along with scientific study and sign-on by all of the world’s respected groups, is the leading edge in the fight against this epidemic, and one of the chief reasons we are willing to talk about an END to this epidemic.
PrEP or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis
PrEP is the use of medications to prevent the spread of HIV from someone who is living with HIV to an uninfected partner. These daily medications (not a day-before or morning-after pill) have had spectacular results in several studies, reducing the transmission rate from between 96% and 99%. These pre-exposure medications are game changers in the fight against HIV, and in efforts to end this epidemic.
Currently, there are 3 medications that are available (FDA approved) for use in HIV prevention, known collectively as PrEP.
- Emtricitabine / Tenofovir (brand name Truvada), now in generic form, is taken once daily. It is approved for both men and women and is both safe and effective.
- Emtricitabine / Tenofovir (brand name Descovy), is also a one-pill-a-day prescription and is formulated with a better bone-loss and kidney profile. It is approved for men and trans women. Descovy is safe and effective.
- Cabotegravir (brand name Apretude) is an injectable PrEP medication that is taken every two months. This is the newest tool in the PrEP arsenal. Cabotegravir is safe and effective.
We are happy to see that the up-take and acceptance of PrEP in the United States is improving. These are amazing HIV prevention strategies. Find out more about PrEP. You can find a Tennessee PrEP provider here.