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CDC’s welcome recommendation of drug to prevent HIV

Remember AIDS? Fifty thousand people a year are still infected with the virus. But perhaps because the disease is no longer a death sentence, thanks to post-infection drug regimens, vulnerable people have relaxed their vigilance. The percentage of gay men who report having had unprotected sex crept up from 48 in 2005 to 57 in 2011. With that reality staring it in the face, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month recommended the people at serious risk of infection take a daily pill called Truvada, which reduces transmission of the HIV virus dramatically.

The agency targeted only gay men who have unprotected sex, and people having unprotected sex with intravenous drug users or bisexual men. It wisely urged that the pill be taken in conjunction with familiar safety measures, including condoms and, for drug users, clean needles. Any drug promising prevention carries risks of furthering the sense of complacency about AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. But the agency is clearly calculating that offering a new option to those who do not consistently use condoms will reduce infection rates. Truvada has its cost: Though it is already covered by most insurers, it still costs $13,000 for a year’s supply. But the consequences of letting AIDS rise again are far more costly.