ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Antigua & Barbuda’s HIV/AIDS co-ordinator, Dr Amina Fernandez, believes that with the expanded use of HIV treatment medicines as a prevention tool, there is hope for the island’s serodiscordant couples – in which one partner is HIV negative and the other is HIV positive – to have families of their own.
In light of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) panel recommendation to authorise the antiretroviral drug Truvada for high-risk individuals, including members of the men who have sex with men (MSM) community, Fernandez said that serodiscordant couples could benefit from pre-exposure prophylaxis treatment (treatment of HIV negative people with HIV medications to prevent infection).
“I actually see that we can use this pre-exposure prophylaxis with serodiscordant couples …” Fernandez said.
“We actually have some serodiscordant couples in care here in Antigua and actually a couple of them have voiced desire to become pregnant.”
However, the infectious disease specialist says that strict adherence to treatment and the continued involvement of a medical professional is the key to preventing HIV transmission to the uninfected partner.
“In those cases, of course you would want to make sure that the positive partner would have to have an undetectable viral load,” the doctor said.
“They would have to be on medications for some time and we see the trend that the viral load is undetectable because with that, they would be much less likely to transmit to their partner.”
According to the board certified internist, pre-exposure prophylaxis medications, such as Truvada or its equivalent, will then be prescribed to the HIV negative partner and the couple would then engage in unprotected sexual activity. After the woman becomes pregnant, the negative partner can then stop taking the antiretroviral medications.
“I see that as a strong possibility for those in Antigua and in the OECS … For the serodiscordant couples that are trying to become pregnant,” Fernandez said.
“I see that as something that we definitely could start in the near future.”
Medical professionals note that there is a risk of subsequent infection for the HIV negative partner and potentially to the foetus and that serodiscordant couples seeking to become pregnant are urged to contact a medical professional to explore their options.