HIV drug being tested in Orlando

By: Janine Reyes , WFTV Web Staff

Updated:

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orlando ranks fifth in the country for new HIV infections in the last year. 

“One person in every 200 people pretty much,” said Dr. Edwin DeJesus, with the Orlando Immunology Center. 

The statistics are staggering, and it's something that DeJesus has said he’s been working to stop. 

“It’s a shame, because it’s a preventable disease,” DeJesus said. 

HIV is preventable with a program called “PrEP or pre-exposure prophylaxis." It’s a daily dose of the prescription pill Truvada, which is more effective than a condom at preventing HIV. 

Truvada does have some drawbacks, because it can impact the kidneys and cause bone loss. However, patients have quarterly blood draws to check kidneys and bone loss. That’s why scientists are now testing a new version called Descovy.

“The new version of Descovy appears not to cause those two problems, which are the main hiccups that Truvada has,” DeJesus said. 

DeJesus has helped conduct clinical studies at the Orlando Immunology Center that allow the FDA to approve the life-saving drugs. Workers conducted studies that got Truvada on the market for HIV prevention, and they’ve also studied an HIV shot. 

Eric Babcock, who is HIV negative, participated in the study. He’s helping test Descovy.   

“I would rather have that peace of mind that I have a little more protection than somebody that’s not taking it, and not just for myself, but to stop spreading it to someone else,” Babcock said. 

Experts expect both of the drugs to prevent the spread of HIV, and that’s what’s most critical. 

DeJesus said he hopes the studies will one day eliminate HIV altogether and looks forward to not having to give that diagnosis.

“Make no mistake, HIV doesn’t discriminate regarding age, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexual preference, any one of them can get exposed," DeJesus said.

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