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HIV Prevention Pill To Be Tested In San Diego

Dr. Richard Haubrich, UC San Diego, talks to KPBS about a new HIV pill.

We're sorry. This audio clip is no longer available. A transcript has been made available.

Researchers at UC San Diego are doing something fairly unusual: they are testing a drug that will prevent a disease instead of treating it. That disease is HIV.

Richard Haubrich, a UC San Diego professor of medicine and infectious disease, is leading the HIV prevention study that involves a two-drug combination pill called Truvada, which can reduce the likelihood of HIV infection.

Haubrich told KPBS that while Turvada has been found to be effective, his study focuses on ways to ensure people actually take the medicine.

“What’s key is finding ways to help people be really adherent with the medicine, if they don’t take the medicine, it doesn’t help them,” he said.

To do this, researchers will use text messages and an "alert worker" to remind people to take their pills.

While these pills are expensive - $10,000 a year for daily use - the more the medicine is used, the more the cost will come down, Haubrich said.

Also a challenge: getting healthy people to take a pill, he said. He added that it's even a challenge to get people with HIV to take a pill.

To find at-risk populations to use in their studies, UC San Diego researchers are referring people who were tested for HIV.

"If they qualify by having continued high risk behaviors, they’ll be offered entry into the study," Haubrich said.

The pills will also be paired with a prevention package, including condoms and HIV testing. Haubrich said the study will be successful if it proves text messaging and alerts can make people more likely to take their pills.

"If we get people 80 to 90 percent to be adherent, that will allow it to be successful," he said.

UC San Diego is one of three research teams involved in the study to share an $11.8 million state grant.

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