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Free treatment to prevent HIV soon available in France

media Truvada, the first pill recommended for HIV prevention in healthy people who are at high risk of getting HIV. AFP/Kerry Sheridan

People in France who are HIV-negative but at high risk of becoming positive will soon receive a free anti-AIDS drug treatment. The French Health Ministry made the announcement on Monday, with the initiative due to take effect in early 2016.

“I’m in favour of a temporary use of such a drug,” said Health Minister Marisol Touraine on Monday night at the French National Assembly. “Such a medicine will enable us to quickly make progress to fight against AIDS,” she added.

The drug, known as Truvada (RTU), is a combination of other drugs originally developed to treat HIV infection, to prevent infection to an infant breastfed by a HIV-positive mother, and to prevent transmission during childbirth.

It was not so far used to prevent infection of people who are HIV-negative, and France becomes the second country after the United States to authorise the use of Truvada in pre-exposure prophylaxis, or preventive treatment.

Critics have worried that having such a drug for free could promote unsafe sex and discourage condom use. Touraine insisted that Truvada “mustn’t replace or substitute condoms”.

Truvada will be 100 per cent supported by the French health system and entirely free on medical prescription.

In France, there are 7,000 new HIV infections per year.

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