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HIV prevention shot: Scientists test powerful new drug for the fight against HIV

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An HIV prevention shot may soon be a reality since groundbreaking new research has shown that an experimental drug completely protected lab monkeys from getting HIV. As reported by the Huffington Post via the Associated Press, the HIV prevention shot could potentially protect people from the virus for up to 3 months with just one injection.

Although initial tests of the HIV prevention shot have proven successful on monkeys, SHIV in monkeys, of course, may not reflect what happens with HIV in humans, and drug toxicities may surface, Science Mag writes.

Regarding the possible implications of the HIV prevention shot, Dr. Robert Grant, an AIDS expert at the Gladstone Institutes told the AP...."This is the most exciting innovation in the field of HIV prevention that I've heard recently."

"Both groups are showing 100 percent protection" with the drug, Grant said of the two groups of researchers. "If it works and proves to be safe, it would allow for HIV to be prevented with periodic injections, perhaps every three months."

Researchers explained that they are getting closer to finding a vaccine to completely prevent HIV but the HIV prevention shot "may be able to fill that gap" until the final goal is reached, said David Ho, whose team headed the research on the effectiveness of the shot on the monkeys.

The AP's report gives further details on the testing of the HIV prevention shot. It reads:

"Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave six monkeys shots of the drug every four weeks; six others got dummy shots. All were exposed to the virus twice a week for 11 weeks.

The monkeys who got the fake treatment were readily infected "but the animals that received the long-acting drug remained protected," said study leader Gerardo Garcia-Lerma of the CDC.

The results mirror what was seen in the CDC's early research in monkeys on Truvada, the pill that's available for HIV prevention now.

In the second study, Chasity Andrews and others at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at Rockefeller University in New York gave eight monkeys two shots of the drug, four weeks apart, and dummy shots to eight others. The animals were exposed to the virus weekly for eight weeks. Again, all animals given the fake treatment were quickly infected and those on the drug were all protected.

To see how long a single shot would last, they did a second study. The single shot protected 12 monkeys for about 10 weeks on average.

The dose used in a single shot corresponded to what people would get from a shot every three months, researchers said.

"This is really promising," said Dr. Judith Currier, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, Los Angeles. The research "supports moving this forward" into human testing, she said.

As mentioned above, the HIV prevention shot is not the first preventive drug of its kind. In 2012, the FDA approved a drug treatment that prevents HIV infection in healthy people.

The drug, called Truvada, is used for the treatment of HIV in infected patients, and clinical trials also showed that it protects uninfected high-risk people from acquiring the virus, if they take the drug daily before and after exposure, a report from Time explains.

This is the first pill to prevent the spread of human immunodeficiency virus ( HIV) that causes AIDS.

Researchers say that trials of the HIV prevention shot on people as a treatment, not a prevention, are already in progress.

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