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WASHINGTON (AP) - The Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved the first drug shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection, the latest milestone in the 30-year battle against the virus that causes AIDS.
The agency approved Gilead Sciences' pill Truvada as a preventive measure for healthy people who are at high risk of acquiring HIV through sexual activity, such as those who have HIV-infected partners.The decision comes less than two weeks after the agency approved another landmark product: the first over-the-counter HIV test that Americans can use in the privacy of their homes.
The two developments are seen as the biggest steps in years toward curbing the spread of HIV in the U.S., which has held steady at about 50,000 new infections per year for the last 15 years. An estimated 1.2 million Americans have HIV, which develops into AIDS unless treated with antiviral drugs. And it's estimated that one-fifth, or about 240,000 people, are unaware that they are infected.
Researchers had long sought to create a pill that could help stem the epidemic. Public health advocates said Monday that Truvada represents a major breakthrough, both as a medical therapy and as a means of expanding other preventive measures. Patients who get a prescription for Truvada will be expected to take part in a comprehensive HIV prevention plan, which experts say will enhance the drug's impact.
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