A few years ago I kept seeing ads for a medicine called Truvada for PrEP that helps prevent the spread of HIV through sex. Amazing! I even wrote an article about it! Now, several years later, another option is on the market called Descovy for PrEP.

What is PrEP?

PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, and is a once daily pill taken to help lower the risk of getting HIV through sex. HIV is NOT the same thing as AIDs. HIV is a virus that takes over cells in the body of an infected person and weakens the immune system, making it impossible for the virus to get cleared out of the infected person. HIV can be spread through certain bodily fluids such as blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid or pre-cum, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. People can become infected with HIV by sharing a needle or having unprotected sex with someone who is infected with HIV.

AIDS is the final stage of HIV. A person is diagnosed with AIDS if or when their immune system is no longer working the way it should. HIV turns into AIDS if the virus is untreated and weakens the immune system over time.\

How does Descovy work with PrEP?

Someone who is HIV negative, but has a partner who is HIV positive would be a great candidate for Descovy, because it prevents the spread of HIV through sex. Descovy works almost exactly as Truvada does, however, there is one main difference in the medications. Descovy is not for people assigned female at birth, as no clinical trials have been done on these participants. Truvada trials have been done on people assigned female at birth, however, you should consult your doctor before becoming pregnant or breastfeeding while on Truvada, as HIV can be spread through breast milk. But back to Descovy!

Before taking Descovy, you must receive a negative HIV test. Once you start taking your prescription, it is recommended to get tested about every three months for STDs, including HIV. Other STDs can make you more likely to contract HIV, so regular testing along with taking PrEP regularly is the way to go. Descovy lowers the chance of getting HIV through sex, however, it doesn’t prevent any other STDs, again making those regular tests oh so important. If you take Descovy and have a monogamous partner who also knows their STD status, you likely wouldn’t need to be tested as often. 

What are the side effects of Descovy?

When used correctly in a clinical trial, 99.7% of participants stayed HIV negative. Heck yeah! As with any medication, there are some potential side effects. The side effects for Descovy and Truvada are nearly identical. Side effects for Descovy include the possibility of worsening Hepatitis B, so be sure to tell your health care provider all of your current medications and health status before starting Descovy. Side effects also include potential kidney problems, too much lactic acid in your blood, as well as liver problems. More mild side effects include nausea or headache. 

The Descovy website has a bunch of detailed information on how to find a healthcare provider to help you determine if Descovy is right for you, as well as ways to stay on top of your daily pill intake, including a daily pill tracker to help you never miss a dose. There is also information on the cost and coverage for Descovy on their website

Having more options for PrEP medications and HIV prevention through sex is huge and exciting! Again, Descovy is not for people assigned female at birth, but it’s a great option for other people at risk of being exposed to HIV. If you think Descovy is a good option for you or your partner(s), visit their website to find a recommended healthcare provider.