UPenn launching study of anti-HIV meds

A local university is participating in a study on anti-HIV medication, and offering participants compensation for their time and travel.

The University of Pennsylvania HIV Prevention Research Division will provide participants with Truvada, a daily oral pill, and Cabotegravir, an anti-HIV drug that can be injected once every eight weeks. Currently, health organizations only recommend Truvada for PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), which has been shown to prevent HIV transmission. Nineteen research facilities across the country aim to measure whether Cabotegravir works as effectively as Truvada.

The study, entitled “Give PrEP a Shot,” is open to healthy cisgender men who have sex with men and healthy transgender women who have sex with men. All participants must currently be HIV-negative and between the ages of 18-50. They will receive free and confidential HIV counseling and brief physical exams, in addition to compensation for time and travel.

Each participant will receive Truvada and Cabotegravir, one of which will be a placebo. Dr. Ian Frank, a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, said that half of the participants will receive a real Truvada pill while the other half will receive a real Cabotegravir.

Frank said at least 4,500 participants nationwide will be included in this study. While he said the university is looking for at least 70 participants in Pennsylvania, the number could increase depending on the study’s needs. 

Frank added that this is the first time the university conducted a large-scale study to see whether an alternative to Truvada would be effective in preventing people from becoming HIV-positive. 

Frank noted that he hopes the study will bring about support for HIV-prevention measures other than Truvada.

“In the perfect universe, everybody does beautifully,” Frank said. “Nobody gets infected. Everybody takes their medication the right way and we wind up having two preventative strategies to prevent people from becoming HIV-infected and individuals have options. I think that would be the best outcome from the trial.” 

Visit phillyvax.org/outreach to sign up for the study or call 1-866-448-7366.