Rutgers New Jersey Medical School Research with a Heart is recruiting participants for the MERCK– IMPOWER studies to assess an HIV prevention oral medication on sexual minority groups.

The two studies, IMPOWER 022 and IMPOWER 024, will assess the effectiveness of the medication Islatravir, which is taken monthly, compared to daily oral pills for prevention of HIV acquisition. IMPOWER 022 will compare daily oral Truvada (emtricitabine/tenofovir disproxil) to once monthly Islatravir in cis-gender women while IMPOWER 024 will compare the once monthly Islatravir to daily oral Truvada or Descovy (emtricitabine/tenofovir alafenamide) in men who have sex with men and transgender women.

HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) drugs are a critical tool in mitigating the rate of new HIV infections. There is an ongoing need for it in areas with a high disease prevalence, especially in Essex and Hudson counties in New Jersey. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has identified these counties as needing these treatment and prevention services most.

New Jersey has one of the highest cases of new HIV infections in the country, with about 26.9 percent of women getting newly infected as compared to the national average of 19 percent.

“These studies are critical to ensure that we give our patients different options of PrEP medication to choose from, so they can select the best one that meets their needs,” said Shobha Swaminathan, an associate professor at Rutgers NJMS and the principal investigator for both IMPOWER studies. “We are glad to be able to offer this clinical trial opportunity.”

Participants eligible for the two studies will be randomly assigned to take the study medication once a month or standard of care medication taken once a day to prevent an HIV infection if exposed to the virus. There will be a minimum follow-up of 48 weeks and another 96 weeks follow-up for at least 50 percent of the participants. Participants will be reimbursed for their time and effort.

Rutgers NJMS Research With A Heart has been a site for multiple National Institute of Health funded clinical trials, including the landmark Moderna COVE Study for the phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine and Janssen’s MOSAICO phase 3 HIV vaccine study, which both remain in follow-up at this time.

People interested in participating in the studies may call (844) 782-6765 or email [email protected].