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More information about Truvada

What is Truvada?

Truvada is an antiviral medication used as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, to protect against HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). It comes in the form of a tablet taken daily and contains the active ingredients emtricitabine and tenofovir to prevent HIV if you are at a higher risk.

You must be HIV-negative and take the pill everyday whilst engaging in safe sex (wearing a condom) for Truvada to have the most chance of being effective.

Truvada may also be used as a treatment option for those that are HIV-positive, but this should be taken alongside a host of other medications as directed by your doctor. We only offer Truvada as a PrEP treatment. HIV can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and should be treated to avoid symptoms.

It's important to note that Truvada should not be used as a substitute for condoms. Condoms should still be worn to avoid contracting HIV, along with other sexually transmitted infections. Other safe sex practises must be considered as well, such as an open dialogue with your partner and getting tested for STIs including HIV. Truvada is only used to prevent HIV and will not prevent you from other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or unwanted pregnancy.

What are the higher risks of contracting HIV?

The highest risk of contracting HIV is having sex with an individual who is HIV positive, especially when not using additional protection such as condoms. However, there are a few other factors to be wary of.

  • Having sex with someone who is HIV positive, regardless of the gender and nationality.
  • Having sex in an area of the world prone to HIV (developing countries such as sub-Saharan Africa) or with a person who is from these nations or used to live there.
  • Male-to-male sexual contact is the most likely scenario to contract HIV and AIDS.
  • Certain ethnicities are more susceptible to HIV including black Africans, regardless of the sexual orientation.
  • If you have another STI, you can become more prone to catching others including HIV.
  • From a mother to her child before or during birth, or through breastfeeding.
  • Sharing needles, especially recreational drug use, and a dependency on alcohol. Having sex with a person who uses infected needles.
  • Sharing other items such as toothbrushes and razor blades (objects that expose skin) although this is unlikely.
  • Having multiple sex partners without protection or being responsible (not wearing a condom).
  • HIV within the prostitution industry (exchanging sex for commodities such as money, food, shelter or drugs).
  • Incarceration (being in prison).
  • People who have "chemsex" (sex using drugs to heighten the experience, which can also lead to irresponsibility such as not using condoms).

Please note, Truvada has been known to cause kidney problems. A kidney test is required before beginning this treatment.

How does Truvada work?

Truvada contains two active ingredients, emtricitabine and tenofovir. This is a fixed-dose combination pill meaning the same amounts of the ingredients in the same dosage are present in each pill.

All Truvada film-coated tablets are similar to rounded-rectangles in shape and blue in colour with the dosage engraved on one side.

Emtricitabine is classed as a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI), and is a synthetic drug. Tenofovir (disoproxil fumarate) is also classed as an NRTI. Both medications work together to prevent HIV.

Whilst there is no cure for HIV and AIDS, Truvada can reduce the chances of catching HIV and minimise the spread of the virus if you have already tested positive.

What is a NRTI?

NRTIs block an enzyme called reverse transcriptase, which is a protein that starts or increases the speed of a chemical reaction in the body. In this case, emtricitabine and tenofovir work together to halt the spread of HIV.

How do I take Truvada?

Before taking Truvada, you must have tested negative for the virus, and you must take it for an initial 3 months before coming in contact with HIV (such as having sex). It will not work as a treatment for the virus in this form. It is a continual dosage so needs to be taken everyday to protect yourself before you come in contact with HIV.

  • One pill should be taken every day
  • Try to pick the same time every day
  • Swallow whole with water
  • Do not crush or bite into the tablet
  • It can be taken with or without food

When taking a daily pill like Truvada, it is handy to take the pill at the same time everyday. For example, first thing in the morning and before bed at night are popular times and easier to remember. Or you can schedule an alarm on your phone so you remember everyday. This includes booking an appointment or ordering in time before your last dose runs out.

Truvada must ALWAYS be used alongside safe sex practises. This includes wearing condoms, having a dialogue with your partner about their past relationships, getting tested for HIV as well as other STIs, staying vigilant and responsible.

What if I miss a dose?

As Truvada is taken daily, it is likely there will be a point when you forgot a dosage. If you've missed a dose of Truvada, take a pill as soon as you remember. However, if it is nearly time for the next pill, miss it out completely and just continue with the next dose at the usual time.

Each tablet of Truvada has the same dose of emtricitabine and tenofovir so taking two tablets at once will not counteract the missed dose; it may cause side effects and/or a resistance to the virus.

What are the potential side effects of Truvada?

Like any medications, there is a chance Truvada may cause side effects. Often these may occur at the beginning of the course as your body becomes used to the medication or, the side effects are so mild, the positives of the drug vastly outweigh the side effects.

If you are experiencing side effects and they are manageable, your doctor may advise that you stick with Truvada to see whether these settle down over time.

Common side effects (1 in 1,000 people) may include headaches, depression, fatigue, insomnia, unusual dreams, nausea, stomach/abdominal pain, weight loss and redness of the skin/rash.

Other possible side effects of Truvada include changes in weight (weight gain or weight loss), immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS), bone pain or bone softening/thinning, signs of a new infection, chest pain, unusual or rapid heart rate, trouble speaking or swallowing and kidney problems.

Serious side effects of Truvada include an allergic reaction of the medication including facial swelling (especially in the throat), hives and difficulty breathing.

Other serious side effects include the build-up of lactic acid known as lactic acidosis, which includes problems with breathing, cold hands and feet (that may turn blue), nausea, stomach pain, muscle pain, fatigue, light-headedness or a fast or irregular heartbeat. If you're experiencing any symptoms of lactic acidosis, you must call your doctors immediately.

The same goes with symptoms of liver failure, which includes stomach/abdominal pain, nausea, jaundice (skin or eyes becoming yellow), a loss of appetite, dark urine or light-coloured stools.

If you experience any side effects that aren't listed here or are concern at all about what side effects you're experiencing, contact your doctor as soon as possible or consider going to the Accident & Emergency departure.

What are some precautions and interactions to be aware of?

Precautions and interactions include:

  • Do not take Truvada if you're using any other medication containing emtricitabine, tenofovir, lamivudine, or adefovir.
  • Other medications that could interact negatively with Truvada include hepatitis C antivirals, other HIV medications, and some pain or arthritis medications. This includes aspirin.
  • You should not take Truvada if you're allergic to any of the ingredients.
  • Do not take Truvada if you have already tested positive to HIV, or have had unprotected sex recently and not been tested.
  • You must tell your doctor if you've had liver problems (liver disease, hepatitis B), bone problems (low bone density) or kidney disease.
  • You cannot use Truvada during pregnancy or whilst breastfeeding as the virus can still be passed on and the baby may be harmed. If you're HIV positive and pregnant, you must visit your doctor who will recommend the correct medications.
  • Truvada is not recommended for children under the age of 12 years.
  • It is important to go for tests during the time you're taking Truvada to avoid experiencing serious side effects.
  • Do not change medication or alter dosages without the doctor's consent first.

Please note, Truvada has been known to cause kidney problems. A kidney test is required before beginning this treatment.

What have clinical studies shown?

Truvada has been tested on two separate risk groups; men and transgender women who have sex with men, and heterosexual partners where one is HIV-positive. In both trials, couple were required to wear condoms and receive monthly testing, as well as partaking in other safe sex practices.

Both studies concluded that, when used in conjunction with safe sex practices, Truvada does reduce the chances of HIV infections in these two high-risk groups.

Study 1: Men and transgender women who have sex with men

Within this study, there was a section split into couples taking Truvada and couples taking a placebo. This resulted in a 42% reduced chance of HIV infection. The number of people assigned Truvada was 1,251 and the number of people assigned a placebo was 1,248.

In the second sample, couples were asked to take Truvada or nothing at all. This resulted in a 92% decreased chance of contracting HIV. This was seen in a sample of about 10% so these results should be taken with caution.

Study 2: Heterosexual couples where one person has HIV

Within this study, there was a section split into couples taking Truvada and couples taking a placebo. This resulted in a 75% reduced chance of HIV infection. The number of people assigned Truvada was 1,583 and the number of people assigned a placebo was 1,586.

In the second sample, couples were asked to take Truvada or nothing at all. This resulted in a 90% decreased chance of contracting HIV. This was seen in a sample of about 10% so these results should be taken with caution.

Can I buy Truvada online?

You can order Truvada online from HealthExpress after completing a free consultation to ensure that the medication is 100% suitable for you. You must have tested negative for HIV and not put yourself at risk in the last few weeks.

Truvada can be used along with other medication to combat the symptoms of HIV if you are HIV positive, however, at this time we only offer Truvada as a PrEP (preventative) to individuals at a higher risk of contracting HIV and are HIV-negative.

Once your consultation is completed, it will remain in your personal login area for future use.

How do I get Truvada delivered to my doorstep?

We offer free delivery across the UK.

Are my details safe?

Due to the nature of your personal information, we use data encryption to make sure your details are secure. We will never share your details with a third party.

Note: Decisions about treatment are for both the prescriber and the person to jointly consider during the consultation. However, the final decision will always be the prescriber’s.

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