First Case of HIV Infection for a PrEP User Makes Others Nervous

For the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, as well as for other sexually active individuals, the risk of HIV/AIDS is a constant source of concern. Sexually transmitted diseases can ravage a person’s health, damage personal relationships, and eventually result in death. Fortunately, modern medicine here in Singapore and around the globe has taken some great leaps forward in the realm of preventative care. One such aspect of preventative care is medication like Truvada, which many had considered to be a no-fail protection against HIV. So what happens when that 100% success rate is suddenly broken?

The Scenario

Here’s what happened. A gay man was taking Truvada, an anti-HIV medication, in the form of daily PrEP. This drug is a pill that you take once each day to prevent HIV infection. If users miss doses or fail to take the product as recommended, there are no guarantees; but every person who has taken the recommended dosage consistently has been protected against HIV— until recently, when the 43-year-old man taking the drug contracted a rare strain of HIV.

While it’s impossible to determine whether or not the man missed a dose or more, pharmacy records and blood tests back up his claims that he took the pill every day. According to Dr. David Knox, who documented the case, the man was exposed to a dangerous strain of the virus that was able to resist both of the active drugs in Truvada. Fighting off the emtricitabine and the tenofovir, this particular strain of HIV was able to infect the man.

The Risk

According to research and studies, the PrEP medication works very well. In almost all cases, it did exactly what it was intended to do— keeping HIV from infecting the exposed individual’s body. However, researchers and users have to be realistic, acknowledging that exceptions exist in any situation. There is a long history of various viruses eventually developing resistance to the drugs being used to fight them.

Let’s imagine that you’re taking Truvada or PrEP regularly as suggested by your doctor. You have a sexual encounter in which you are exposed to an HIV strain that is resistant to one of the drugs in the pill. Since it wasn’t resistant to both drugs, you won’t be infected; however, your body may react differently to the pills from that point on. The effectiveness of the medication could decrease because of that one encounter with the semi-resistant strain.

The individual who became infected while on Truvada lives in Canada, where 10% of British Columbia’s HIV-positive residents carry emtricitabine-resistant HIV. That percentage varies from region to region, but it’s important to be aware of the risk factor in our area of Singapore.

The Necessary Action

If you suspect that you may have been exposed to HIV without protection, take immediate action by visiting Shim Clinic, STD Clinic based in Singapore. When you act within 72 hours of the exposure event, you may be able to pursue HIV PEP treatment, which can keep you from becoming HIV positive.

High-risk individuals who haven’t contracted HIV yet should definitely pursue PrEP as a way to protect themselves against this virus. The PrEP medication significantly lowers your risk of infection, with benefits that far outweigh the tiny chance of contracting a tougher kind of HIV. Doctors recommend condom use along with the daily pill, as a safeguard against those rare resistant strains. For an HIV test or information about Truvada, PrEP, and similar anti-HIV medications, contact Shim Clinic today.

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