African researchers have found that drugs normally used to treat HIV could be used in healthy people to protect them from infection.
The researchers' report, published in the Cochrane Library, calls for policies that allow the drugs to be distributed to people most at risk, such as the gay community, drug users and people in the developing world, MSNBC reported.
Charles Okwundu, from Stellenbosch University in South Africa, led a team of researchers that reviewed studies into the approach called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
They reviewed experiments with more than 9800 people at risk of being infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).
They found people who took the drug tenofovir, which is branded Truvada, had their risk of HIV infection cut by nearly two thirds.
"Our findings suggest that antiretroviral drugs can reduce the risk of HIV infection for people in high-risk groups," Okwundu said in a media release.
"However, in the search for highly reliable HIV prevention strategies, it is important to determine how pre-exposure prophylaxis can best be combined with existing programs, as no strategy is likely to be 100 percent effective."
The researchers pointed out that the long-term use of PrEP could cause kidney damage and bone-density loss, and if the drugs weren't taken consistently, people could develop infections that defy the drug, that can also be passed on to others.
"There also are concerns that PrEP will lead to an increase in high-risk behaviour," Okwundu's team said.
"If PrEP is not completely effective, even a partial reduction in use of safer sex could lead to an increased rate of HIV transmission."
Studies have also confirmed that circumcising men can protect them from infection, as can the use of microbicide gels that can be used before and after sex.
About 34 million people worldwide have HIV.
There is currently no cure or vaccine, but solutions appear to be on the horizon.
"We think we are at the beginning of the end of the AIDS epidemic," Dr Diane Havlir, an AIDS specialist from the University of California, San Francisco, told MSNBC.
"Over the past three years, there has been a series of breakthroughs in interventions that can dramatically curb the rate of infections with HIV."