Post-exposure prophylaxis may reduce the risk of transmission after exposure to HIV

Emergence of new HIV carriers does not stop despite the great efforts focused in its prevention. Between 2001 and 2010 the rate of new infections remains high and stable: about 700 cases per year in Catalunya, 300 of them diagnosed at the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, and up to 2.7 million worldwide. The decline in the annual rate from 2001 is 15%, a significant figure yet not big enough. Therefore it is necessary to implement new tools to combat new infections.

The innovative application of existing therapies could help control the spread of HIV. The scientific community believes that giving a short administration of antiretrovirals after HIV exposure may reduce the chances of infection. This hypothesis is reinforced by a clinical trial published in Antiviral Therapy with 255 patients from the hospitals Clínic, del Mar, Universitari de Tarragona Joan XXIII, Sant Pau, Germans Trias i Pujols and Mutua de Terrassa. Dr. Vicens Díaz-Brito is the first author and Drs. Josep Maria Gatell and Felipe García the last ones, all of them from Hospital Clínic of Barcelona and the Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS).

None of the patients who received preventive treatment after HIV exposure developed the infection. The average risk is above 1% after a risky contact. In any case, this strategy cannot be considered a protection against infection, although it is a final security barrier when all the existing ones have failed. Over 400 people per year receive post-exposure prophylaxis in the Hospital Clínic of Barcelona after sexual contact, usually sporadic, during which an accident has occurred in the application of preventive measures and these have been insufficient. It is a little-known pharmaceutical option both for users and the medical community.