1. Headline
  1. Headline
By
updated 8/9/2012 1:27:21 PM ET 2012-08-09T17:27:21

U.S. health officials said Thursday that doctors should consider giving an AIDS prevention pill to women and heterosexual men who are at high risk for getting the virus.

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. Llama drama: The Internet goes wild over animals on the loose

      When word spread Thursday that two llamas were on the run in Sun City, Arizona, Twitter immediately immersed itself in the...

    2. 'Clueless' turns 20! See how the beloved teen movie is celebrating
    3. Watch 45 years of "Sesame Street" trivia in 3 minutes
    4. Aw! Groom reads vows to bride's daughter in tear-jerking viral video
    5. Meet the doctor who makes kids laugh while giving them shots

The government previously advised doctors to give the once-a-day pill Truvada to high-risk gay and bisexual men only. However, more than a quarter of new HIV cases each year are heterosexuals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"That's not a portion of the epidemic we want to ignore," said Dr. Dawn Smith, the CDC physician who was lead author of the new guidance.

Truvada has been on the market since 2004 to treat people who already have the AIDS virus. But after studies showed it could help prevent infection among gay and bisexual men, U.S. health officials last year said doctors could prescribe it as a preventive for men at high risk.

Since then, studies have found it also can prevent the virus in women and heterosexual men.

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration formally approved the sale of Truvada as a preventive measure for healthy people at high risk of getting HIV.

The CDC is not recommending the pill for all sexually active heterosexuals. And even among couples where one person has HIV, regular condom use generally is effective protection. There an estimated 140,000 heterosexual couples in which one person is infected with the AIDS virus.

But the pill would be a good option for a couple that wanted to have a baby, Smith said, describing one possible scenario.

The drug's manufacturer, Gilead Sciences Inc., said this week it's difficult to break down what portion of Truvada sales have been for prevention.

When used as a preventive, the pill is taken once a day. It costs between $6,000 and $12,000 a year, although some private insurers and Medicaid programs have been covering it, Smith said.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. ©Paramount/courtesy Everett Col / ©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Col

    'Clueless' turns 20! See how the beloved teen movie is celebrating

    2/26/2015 11:08:02 PM +00:00 2015-02-26T23:08:02
  1. Andrã© Chung / for NBC News

    Meet the doctor who makes kids laugh while giving them shots

    2/26/2015 7:24:49 PM +00:00 2015-02-26T19:24:49
  1. Reuters; TODAY; AFP-Getty Images

    The most popular dog breed in the US for the 24th straight year is...

    2/26/2015 5:56:07 PM +00:00 2015-02-26T17:56:07
Exclusive
  1. Katy Winn / AP file

    Robin Williams' daughter Zelda on life without dad, continuing his charity work

    2/26/2015 12:36:28 PM +00:00 2015-02-26T12:36:28