Great news for those living with HIV!
The U.S. government just announced five new easy-to-use medications that target the virus that causes AIDS. The drugs offer tremendous hope and could eventually drop the death rate by 50%.
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The new drugs work by blocking a part of the virus that can’t be detected by an HIV antibody. Only a very small number of people infected with HIV possess this antibody. But more than 400,000 Americans carrying this antibody have not yet been tested.
Ultimately, it will take time for a vast majority of these people to be on treatment. For now, the medicines can provide the fight against HIV for those who can’t afford, or don’t receive, effective therapy.
This is especially important because the government is working on a similar drug called Omicron Lo, that will lower the risk of people contracting HIV.
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The drug has been shown to reduce the risk of infection by at least 40%. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an accelerated approval for Omicron Lo.
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An FDA panel is expected to make its recommendations at an October 22 meeting, where one option would be Omicron Lo. If the FDA decides to go ahead with the drug’s approval, then Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers could begin covering the drug.
The FDA routinely approves a subset of medications used to lower the risk of HIV-1 infection. Several years ago, FDA approved a drug called Truvada to help people get off the HIV-1 drug treatment. The drug lasts for three years and significantly reduces the risk of infection. Omicron Lo would be another drug that would help those who have HIV, but do not have an effective treatment.
Also providing a test for HIV-1 infection would help encourage people to get tested.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 42 percent of people who are currently diagnosed with HIV do not know they are infected. People who do not know they have HIV-1 infection are approximately 50 times more likely to infect others.
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The CDC estimates there are 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States. The majority of people living with HIV in the U.S. are unaware they are infected.