USF Health enrolling at-risk youth in clinical study to find if a pill, Truvada, can prevent HIV

National HIV study in Tampa

TAMPA - The CDC released a report that says 1 in 4 new HIV infections occur in youth 13 to 24.

Can HIV be prevented with a pill?  And would those at high risk even take it? USF Health is enrolling local high-risk young males in a clinical study to try and determine just that.

Jeremiah Kerr is setting up a lab at the Ybor Youth Clinic on 7th Avenue.  It is here he will enroll local young men, 18 to 22, in a national follow-up study of Truvada.

That's the first medication approved to help prevent sexually transmitted HIV in people at high risk.

Dr. Diane Straub is the Chief of Adolescent Medicine at USF.  "And the reason were doing this study is because Truvada was just approved for this indication this summer but  the original did not have very many young men in the studies so we want to look at how this medicine works for younger folks, whether its  feasible for them to take it on a daily basis. We're looking at safety and we're looking at whether it changes their behavior to be on the medication."

Jennifer Miranda worries such a pill would change behavior, and not in a good way. "I think it's not a good idea, because people don't necessarily take responsibility for their actions now, so I think it might make them more careless, in my opinion."

The study will include HIV prevention education, free condoms and counseling. 

Jennifer's friend, who asked not to be identified, disagrees with her, saying the study and the pill are a step in the right direction toward ending the HIV epidemic. "To me, it's like the birth control pill 50 or 60 years ago.  A lot of people didn't know about it, others were for it, others against it.  But girls were popping up pregnant.  As long as you get educated and apply it to your life, it will work for you."

Dr. Straub agrees. The principal investigator already sees many youth in our area engaging in high risk sex, but she says the drug does have side effects that need to be looked at among youth, including decreasing bone density. "If you look at all the data from adults, it does seem very safe.  But young men are particularly vulnerable to something that decreases their bone density."

For more information call 813 396-9137 or contact the USF Health outreach coordinators Jeremiah Kerr, jkerr1@health.usf.edu or Jadawn Wright, jwright@health.usf.edu

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