The Food and Drug Administration just approved a new treatment for HIV. Hooray!
Descovy, a drug made by Gilead Sciences, is a combination of two already-approved drugs used to treat HIV-1, the most common type of HIV.
What's different about this drug? It can do its job effectively but only requires 1/10th the dose of a similar drug. That's great news for the bones and kidneys of people taking the medicine.
“As the first new HIV treatment backbone approved by the FDA in more than a decade, Descovy represents an important evolution in HIV care, " said Norbert Bischofberger, executive vice president of research and development and chief scientific officer at Gilead Sciences.
Now, it's no miracle drug. Descovy does come with strict warnings about certain side effects, and Gilead has yet to announce just how much it will cost.
But for now, file this under "good news"!
Because even with its flaws, this drug is welcome news for the 1.2 million Americans living with HIV.
In the U.S. alone, around 50,000 new HIV infections occur each year. And nearly 1 in 8 people with the virus aren't aware they have it.
Thanks to scientific breakthroughs like this one, people with the virus can live healthier, longer lives. But economic and social challenges like poverty, lack of health care options, stigma, and homophobia prevent people from getting tested and/or receiving and continuing proper preventive measures or treatment.
While we celebrate announcements like this one about Descovy, it's crucial to also highlight prevention efforts and treatment access.
One big breakthrough that's preventing new infections among the people with the greatest risk is PrEP.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis , or PrEP, is when individuals with a very high risk of contracting HIV (think someone with an HIV-positive partner or a partner using needle drugs) take HIV medicines every day to lower their odds of getting the virus.
Currently, a combination drug sold under the name Truvada is approved for this use, and studies show PrEP is effective at preventing infection when used correctly.
Gilead, the company behind Descovy, also makes Truvada. And they work to make sure their therapies and medications are accessible to people who are uninsured or unable to afford copays.
It's not all puppies and rainbows: Gilead is still a drug company, and drug companies are gonna drug company. But through patient-assistance programs and state and federal initiatives, medications like this are now available to more people than ever.
Whether it's groundbreaking treatments, targeted prevention, or accessibility, we're slowly but surely fighting back against HIV and AIDS.
We've come a long way since the beginning of the epidemic. And thanks to top-notch research, empathy, and an increase in funding and public awareness, we will never go back again.