01/12/2011 06:05 GMT | Updated 01/12/2011 06:12 GMT

World AIDS Day 2011: New Once-Daily HIV Pill Available In UK

Eviplera, a new once-daily pill for the treatment of HIV has been made available in 27 countries of the European Union following approval by the European Medicines Agency.

The new drug, from Gilead Sciences, combines three antiretroviral treatments in a single tablet so HIV patients only need to take one tablet a day to treat their condition.

Fifteen years ago HIV patients were required to take as many as 20 tablets.

Although this will be the second single-tablet regimen available on the market, the first also being from Gilead, Eviplera marks a giant leap forward in the advancement of this form of treatment, thanks to its tolerability and reduced side effects.

In clinical trials, the treatment has shown to be well tolerated by patients. This is particularly significant as the intolerable side effects associated with HIV medication, such as vivid nightmares, poor sleep and anxiety, have been known to cause patients to choose to start treatment later, or even to discontinue it altogether.

Whereas early treatment can reduce viral load to nearly undetectable levels, significantly reducing a patient's prognosis as well as reducing the risk of infecting a sexual partner with HIV.

Dr Macky Natha, Consultant Physician in Sexual Health and HIV, Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, told the Huffington Post: "It's estimated that there are almost 90,000 people in the UK living with HIV. A quarter of these remain undiagnosed. For some, this is for fear of being tested and fear of the treatments available."

He added: "With HIV patients now living well into their sixties and seventies, a tolerable form of treatment is vital. Eviplera offers greater tolerability and fewer side effects which will have a huge impact on the quality of life for such patients."

Jason Warriner, Clinical Director at the Terence Higgins Trust, said: "HIV drug treatments give people with HIV the chance to lead longer and healthier lives. This new option which involves taking just one pill a day is good news for people who may have difficulty managing the number of pills that they currently have to take."

The UK has seen a surge in the number of people infected with HIV, which has trebled in ten years. Thirty years ago HIV was an acute, fatal condition that mainly affected white, homosexual men. However, today the rate of HIV is rising across a broader range of groups including the over 50s, heterosexuals and black & Asian ethnic minority groups.

HIV emerged 30 years ago. Although huge advancements have been made in the treatment of the condition, awareness of HIV and AIDS has fallen off the public radar and more needs to be done to tackle the surge in infection. Today (1 December) is World AIDS Day, a global initiative to raise awareness of HIV.

Eviplera, the second single-tablet HIV regimen to be authorised in the EU, is now available for newly diagnosed patients who have had no previous treatment.