The anti-HIV drug
Viread, also known by its generic name tenofovir, is
quickly becoming a popular club drug among gay and bisexual
men, who take the medication in the hope that it
will prevent them from being infected with HIV during
unprotected sex, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Use of the drug has become so popular that Viread is
often sold in packets along with ecstasy and crystal meth at
gay clubs and is even referred to as "taking a
T" by HIV-negative gay men who use it.
currently under way around the world to gauge whether Viread
use can prevent HIV infections. Two continuing U.S. studies,
in Atlanta and San Francisco, include sexually active
gay men who are taking daily doses of the medication.
Studies in Africa and Asia are focusing on
Viread's protective effects among sex workers and
But AIDS experts
warn that there is no evidence yet from the studies to
confirm that Viread use prevents HIV infections, and they
worry that gay men who use the drug instead of condoms
could be placing themselves at high risk for HIV
infection. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
study found that 7% of HIV-negative men had used Viread
before engaging in risky sex, believing that the
medication would protect them against infection.
"This is a
very worrisome development," David Hardy, an HIV doctor at
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, told the Times.
AIDS experts also
say that even if studies show Viread offers some
protection against HIV infection, they would recommend its
use in conjunction with condoms, not as a replacement
for them. "We would never recommend people stop
using condoms," Jeff Klausner, director of sexually
transmitted disease prevention for the San Francisco health
department, told the Times.
But some doctors
already are prescribing Viread for their sexually active
gay patients, particularly those who do not use condoms. For
Mark Conant, an HIV doctor in San Francisco, the drug
is the only means of protection some of his patients
will use. "What choice do I have? Everyone knows
condoms work, but they're not using them," he told
the Times. "All I am trying to do is reduce the
risk that people harm themselves." So far, he says, two of
his patients he describes as "very sexually
active" who regularly use the drug have
remained free of HIV infection.
in San Francisco plan to survey gay men next year to
determine how many of them are using Viread either in
conjunction with or as a replacement for condoms. If
the rates are high, the city may launch an educational
campaign to inform gay men of the risks of relying on an
unproved HIV prevention method. (Advocate.com)