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According to the CDC, an estimated 56,000 people acquire HIV each year, and more than half of them are gay or bisexual men. The rate of new HIV diagnoses among MSM is more than 44 times that of other men, the agency added.

The NIH study offers “great hope” about biomedical interventions, said Marjorie J. Hill, chief executive of Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

“We support further research to develop effective biomedical prevention interventions, even as we spread the word about what works best now,” she said, adding that “by far, the most effective prevention technologies remain condoms and lubricant, and clean needles.”

Ernest Hopkins, legislative director at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, told AIDS.gov video this past summer that the PREP approach is “a promising tool,” but he wondered who will pay for it and how will the MSM community be taught about it.

“Much more needs to be understood before PREP is rolled out to the community, but for now, this study presents an encouraging glimmer of hope, particularly in San Francisco,” since this is where the HIV/AIDS epidemic began, the foundation said yesterday.

According to the annual HIV drug guide put out by Test Positive Aware Network, a month’s treatment of Truvada cost $868 in 2006.

The study was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ Division of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome at NIH; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and Gilead Sciences Inc., which makes Truvada. Dr. Grant is with the J. David Gladstone Institutes, a private foundation affiliated with the University of California in San Francisco.

The six countries that participated in the study are Peru, Ecuador, South Africa, Brazil, Thailand and the United States.