Doctors call for wider use of drug that can prevent HIV infection (Dr. Julio Montaner)

International HIV/AIDS experts meeting in Vancouver are calling for wider use of a drug that can prevent HIV infection among those who engage in high-risk sex and are not infected with the virus.

But there are unanswered questions about the one-pill-a-day preventive treatment, including who should pay and whether broad use of it could fuel a surge in already-rampant levels of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis.

Dr. Julio Montaner, head of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, said in an interview he’s not pushing for taxpayer-funded coverage of the preventive treatment ($850 a month) until more research is done. He made the remarks after a news conference during the International AIDS Society conference about the latest research on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). The pills contain two of the three antiretroviral drugs that HIV patients take to suppress the virus to undetectable levels. When taken as a prevention method by HIV-negative patients, the PrEP medications act as a barrier, preventing HIV transmission to HIV-negative individuals.

Pamela Fayerman reports.

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