'Major advance in HIV': UCSF hopeful about cutting edge medication


SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS RADIO) – It's been over 40 years since the emergence of HIV, and even though attempts to create a vaccine have not been successful, doctors at UCSF are making strides in virus prevention and treatment.

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Dr. Monica Gandhi serves as the Director of the UCSF AIDS program, as well as a professor and medical director of the renowned Ward 86 HIV Clinic. She told KCBS Radio reporter Alice Wertz on "As Prescribed" there have been positive developments in HIV medication.

"Just a few weeks ago we got the results of the latest phase three study of the latest HIV vaccine that was trialed and it was a negative study, meaning it didn’t work," Gandhi said. "This is unfortunately kind of a string of vaccine trial failures. We're really no closer at this moment to getting a vaccine 40 years into the HIV pandemic."

She explained the trials were disappointing, but that there is also a lot of great news. PrEP in pill form has been used to stop HIV since 2012 through daily intake, but a new medication is showing positive signs in studies at UCSF's Ward 68, relieving patients from an everyday pill regime.

"We've been really excited about a new product," Gandhi said. "This new prevention agent is giving something long acting. It's called cabotegravir and it's given every eight weeks to prevent HIV."

In the two clinical trials for cabotegravir PrEP, PrEP that was given by the shot was superior to taking the daily oral pill for both men and women. "I think it's a major advance in prevention," Gandhi said.

In terms of treatment, a growing percentage of people with HIV are experiencing homelessness, making the daily antiviral dosing that is necessary to stop the virus challenging. "We don't have a perfect record of people being able to take their HIV medications every day across the country, across the planet and certainly here in San Francisco," Gandhi explained.

However, Ward 68 has found the antiviral pills can also be replaced with long acting injectable treatments — two shots administered every eight weeks. "The biggest deal right now in HIV medicine," Gandhi said.

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