Scroll To Top

CDC recommends anti-HIV drugs for all exposed

CDC recommends anti-HIV drugs for all exposed

In a major policy shift, the U.S. government recommended Thursday for the first time that people exposed to HIV from rapes, accidents, or occasional drug use or unsafe sex receive antiretroviral drug cocktails that can keep them from becoming infected. Previously, federal health officials recommended emergency drug treatment only for health care workers accidentally stuck with a needle, splashed in the eye with blood, or exposed to the virus in some other way on the job. That recommendation was first made in 1996. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded its guidelines to include rape victims and many others Thursday. It said treatment should start no more than 72 hours after a person has been exposed to the virus, and the drugs should be used by patients for 28 days. It is a major shift away from a policy that some doctors had called unconscionable and that put the United States years behind much of Europe and other nations. "The severity of the HIV epidemic dictates we use all available tools to reduce infection," said Ronald Valdiserri, deputy director of the CDC's National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention. He stressed that emergency drug treatment is a "safety net," not a substitute for abstinence, monogamy, and the use of condoms and sterile needles. "It is clearly not a `morning-after pill,' " he said. People accidentally exposed to HIV are usually given a three-drug combination that can include any three-drug combination of antiretroviral medications recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, except those containing Viramune, which has been linked with severe reactions and liver damage. Also, women who are pregnant or of childbearing age should not receive regimens containing the drug Sustiva, which may increase the risk of birth defects. In tests on primates, anti-HIV drug cocktails prevented infection with the monkey version of HIV 100% of the time if given within 24 hours of exposure to the virus, and 52% of the time if administered within 72 hours, said Charles Gonzalez, assistant professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine and a member of the New York State AIDS Institute medical guidelines board. The new guidelines do not bind the U.S. government to pay for the treatment regimen through Medicare or Medicaid, and no federal money has been allocated to help doctors and health departments carry out the recommendations. European countries, Australia, and Brazil have long had guidelines calling for the use of anti-HIV drugs to prevent infection in rape victims. Without a national policy in the United States, states such as New York, California, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island as well as cities such as San Francisco and Boston came up with their own such guidelines. The CDC said it hesitated to recommend wider use of anti-HIV drugs because it did not have enough information on their effectiveness. But the agency said better information has been gathered over the past several years from animal and lab studies and from state and city programs that offer HIV drugs to rape victims and others. Gonzalez suggests that the CDC may have been stymied by a conservative administration in Washington from making such a recommendation previously. "This may be a 'red state, blue state' issue, where states such as Massachusetts, New York, and California are willing to discuss this matter in terms of rape and what happens to consensual adults," Gonzalez said. The CDC said the regimen is not recommended for habitual drug users who share needles or for people who frequently engage in risky sex. Those people would have to take medication practically nonstop, which the health agency does not endorse. (AP)

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Outtraveler Staff