The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will vote on whether to approve a new pill that prevents HIV, the virus which causes AIDS, for those who are at high risk of infection during a meeting to be held on Thursday.
A selected panel of experts will take separate votes on whether the pill, known as Truvada, should be approved for gay and bisexual men; men or women in relationships with HIV-positive partners and other people at risk of acquiring HIV through sexual activity, according to the New York Daily News.
While Truvada has been approved and used since 2004 to treat patients who are already infected with HIV, the panel will determine whether it should now be used on those at risk.
If approved, the historic pill could spare patients "infection with a serious and life-threatening illness that requires lifelong treatment" the FDA concluded, following new research which suggests that the pill is both safe and successful.
Previously conducted trials showed that Truvada cut the risk of new infection by at least 44 percent in healthy gay and bisexual men when consumed daily and combined with condoms and counseling.
The risk was reduced by 75 percent in heterosexual couples in which one partner had HIV but the other did not.
While some experts support the idea of approving Truvada, others do not, and the responses have been overwhelmingly divided.
Some critics believe that giving at-risk patients access to Truvada may consequently reduce the use of other HIV prevention measures such as condoms, but others believe that the pill could help reduce HIV infection rates and ultimately save lives.
"When a drug is safe and effective for a particular use, and there is a real need- which, in other words, is the HIV epidemic- then failing a good reason to stop people from using it, I think people have the right to access something that is safe and effective," Chris Collins, Vice President and Director of Public Policy of amfAR, told Time magazine.
"People need to know the potential risks and benefits, and we need to study this more, but what it comes down to is allowing people to make an informed choice on whether this can benefit them," he added.