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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – On World AIDS day, the focus in the U.S. is on educating people at risk for HIV about prevention.
As an HIV counselor and advocate, Grant Roth’s job is to get through to young people online – spreading the word about the daily pill he credits for keeping him HIV-negative.
“Hopefully it can help end the epidemic. I think it can help us get to zero, or close to zero, new infections every year,” Roth said.
He’s one of 145,000 people across the country taking the prevention drug Truvada, more commonly known as PrEP.
It’s more than 90 percent effective at preventing a person from becoming infected with HIV.
“I think is a game changer. I see it like what birth control did for women, and contraception,” said Antonio Urbina, the medical director of the Institute for Advanced Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Since the FDA approved Truvada in 2012, the number people taking the pill across the country has increased more than five fold.
But Urbina said there’s still a long way to go and that more than 1-million Americans could benefit, including women.
“There are over 600,000 heterosexuals that should be on PrEP based on their risk factors. So, no, I don’t think it’s just a gay man’s intervention. I think it’s really for anybody that’s at risk for HIV,” he said.
New HIV infection rates dropped 10 percent in the United States from 2010 to 2014, but there’s no hard evidence directly linking the decrease to prep prescriptions yet.
“I think it’s made my life a lot easier. I’m no longer as anxious or as fearful,” Roth said.
Roth is continuing to work hard to get the word out.
While doctors say PrEP is highly effective for HIV prevention, they’re reminding patients that it does not protect against other sexually transmitted infections.