Will poppers make you go blind?

The San Diego Gay & Lesbian News points us to a letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, in which four doctors from France suggest that “poppers,” slang for various alkyl nitrites inhaled for recreational purposes, may cause vision problems. The doctors saw four patients within a few months who had prolonged visual loss shortly after inhaling poppers, sometimes used by gay men to enhance sexual pleasure. Here’s part of what the French doctors wrote:

To our knowledge, over the past 10 years, there have been only two case reports of visual loss after inhalation of poppers, and the anatomical basis of this injury remains elusive. Thus, vision loss after intake of poppers is considered to be a rare event, although poppers-induced phosphenes are reported in Internet forums. The reason for the apparent outbreak of popper toxicity that we report here remains to be determined. It may have been due to an increased use of poppers in the population, to the availability of more powerful popper brands, or to improvements in retinal imaging technologies.

—  John Wright

BREAKTHROUGH: Study shows anti-retroviral drugs reduce infection in HIV-negative men

A study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the use of daily anti-retroviral medication reduces the risk of infection in HIV-negative gay men.

The study was done in six countries with 2,500 gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. Using the drug Truvada, they found that it can prevent men from acquiring HIV.

Among the enrolled participants, there were 36 infections among individuals who received the drug and 64 new infections among placebo recipients. Researchers estimated that the use of the preventive medication cut new HIV infections by an estimated 44 percent overall when compared to the placebo. This is the first evidence that a drug regimen can reduce the risk of HIV among HIV-negative men.

“Condoms are still the first line of defense, but we’re hopeful that [Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Initiative] may be an important addition to a comprehensive prevention toolbox that will help prevent new infections among gay men,” said National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors executive director Julie Scofield.

Bret Camp from Resource Center Dallas’ Nelson-Tebedo Clinic called it a milestone but cautioned about the side effects and long-term damage of Truvada. He stressed that this therapy will not replace traditional prevention methods.

More on the breakthrough in this Friday’s World AIDS Day Edition of Dallas Voice.

—  David Taffet