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WHO urges healthy gay men to take HIV prevention drugs, cites ‘exploding epidemics’

- The Washington Times - Monday, July 14, 2014

The World Health Organization for the first time on Friday urged all men who have sex with men to take antiretroviral drugs to prevent HIV infection, which is seeing a massive increase in that demographic.

"We are seeing exploding epidemics," warned Gottfried Hirnschall, who heads the U.N. agency's HIV department, Agence France-Presse reported.

Today, gay and bisexual men are 19 times more likely than the general population to be infected by HIV, Mr. Hirnschall told reporters in Geneva.

For example, 5.7 percent of Bangkok men who have sex with other men have reported HIV infections, compared to less than 1 percent for the overall population, AFP reported.

In its new recommendations for combating the pandemic, WHO for the first time "strongly recommends men who have sex with men consider taking antiretroviral medicines as an additional method of preventing HIV infection."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made the same recommendation in May, AFP reported.

The recommended antiretroviral drugs (called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, marketed in the U.S. under the brand name Truvada) is up to 92 percent effective in protecting patients from HIV. WHO estimated that the widespread use of PrEP among gay and bisexual men could prevent as many as 1 million new HIV infections over the next decade, The Atlantic reported.

While some AIDS activists cheered the concept, others — including many in the LGBT community — argued it would become a risky replacement for condoms.

"If something comes along that's better than condoms, I'm all for it, but Truvada is not that," Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said in April, The Atlantic reported. "Let's be honest: It's a party drug."

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