AIDS 2016: New Options for HIV Prevention Hold Tremendous Promise

Aug 17, 2016 8:00 AM ET

“There’s a pill?!”

A young man named Fortune drove me to the International Convention Center in Durban 2 weeks ago to attend the 2016 International AIDS Conference. What started out as polite small talk resulted in an engaged discussion about new HIV prevention options that have recently become available on the South African market. Specifically, we were discussing oral PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), a pill that reduces the risk of HIV transmission upwards of 90 percent when taken daily by people who are HIV negative. It is just the first of a number of new HIV prevention innovations coming down the pipeline, including other pills, a vaginal ring, and long-acting injections.

For the past year, FSG has been working as part of the OPTIONS Consortium, a USAID-funded, 5-year initiative led by FHI 360, AVAC, and Wits RHI to accelerate the market launch and uptake of new HIV prevention technologies. Fortune himself illustrated the challenges of this perfectly—with hope in his voice he asked about effectiveness, followed-up with questions about where he could get it, and then wondered why he didn’t know about it already. “Would you actually take it every day?” I asked back, channeling some of the field’s skepticism about adherence by young PrEP users. “Of course I would,” he answered, “That’s why I’m asking you all of these questions!”

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