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Truvada may change the game for women trying to get pregnant by HIV positive partners

Poppy and Ted Morgan may seem like your everyday, ordinary couple. They both work full-time jobs in San Francisco and take care of their young toddler, Macey.

“I knew from the moment I met him that this was the one,” Poppy said.

“Yeah, when she walked through the door the first thing I thought, and I’m not lying – is that I’m going to marry this girl,” Ted told me.

But their story is far from ordinary. Ted is HIV-positive, and Poppy is not. Those aren’t their real names — the couple asked that we use pseudonyms to protect their privacy.

For 14 years, they have struggled to find a way to have children and build a family.

“In the back of my mind I thought it was never going to happen,” Ted said.

But after exploring every avenue – from in vitro to adoption- Ted and Poppy found hope in a little blue pill.

“We looked into adoption and sperm donor. We were right at the point where we were going to go with a sperm donor, and then we heard about Truvada,” Poppy said.

Truvada is a drug that was approved by the FDA in July 2012 to prevent the user from contracting HIV. But the pill, also known as PrEP – or pre-exposure prophylaxis – went largely unnoticed until late 2013. Manufacturing giant Gilead decided against advertising the medication. Poppy found out about PrEP in 2010 thanks to Bay Area Perinatal AIDS Center Director Shannon Weber.

“Poppy’s story unfortunately is not unique,” Weber explained. “PrEP is really a game changer for women. It’s the first HIV prevention method that is completely controlled by a woman and she can choose to tell her partner or not tell her partner about this method.”

Even though Weber told Poppy about the medication, Poppy faced an uphill battle trying to find a provider who would prescribe it to her.

“She [Poppy’s doctor] just said absolutely not, and it would be unethical for her to prescribe me a drug knowing that I would be engaging in risky behavior,” Poppy said.

The CDC reports that Truvada is 92 percent effective in preventing the contraction of HIV. Some doctors are afraid to prescribe the drug because they claim it promotes risky sexual behavior. A recent study found that a little more than 3,200 people have begun using the medication since January 2012.

Thanks to Weber’s help, Poppy found a new provider who agreed to give her the medication off-label.

“The only reason we have a child right now is because of Shannon,” Poppy said.

Poppy took Truvada and was able to conceive her child by having unprotected sex with her husband. She remained protected, and her daughter, Macey, was born HIV-negative.

“When we brought her home there were times we’d both just stare at her and we would cry,” Poppy explained. “I still get emotional about it just looking at her little fingers and her eyelashes and her breath. She’s a miracle.”

 

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