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Truvada is a PrEP medication, used as a preventative treatment to stop you contracting HIV. It can also be used as a method of treatment for those who are HIV positive.
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What is Truvada?

Truvada is a type of PrEP medication. PrEP stands for pre exposure prophylaxis. It is a type of preventative treatment that can reduce the risk of you contracting HIV. If you take Truvada as directed, your chance of contracting HIV is reduced. Truvada can also be used as a method of treatment for those who are HIV positive.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that severely damages your immune system, weakening your ability to fight infection and disease. If left untreated, HIV can progress into AIDS, which is where your immune system is weakened so severely that it becomes vulnerable to opportunistic infections. Taking Truvada after contracting HIV can help prevent the infection from progressing to AIDS.

Truvada is the brand name for this medication. The generic PrEP drug name is emtricitabine tenofovir, and the active ingredients are emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate.

If you feel that your HIV risk is high, you are able to buy PrEP online without a prescription from a GP. Fill in our online assessment, and our prescribers will confirm that it is suitable for you. If you need advice or support, feel free to contact us.

For more information about Truvada, please refer to the patient information leaflet here.

How it works

HIV works by infecting a cell and forcing it to make copies of itself, thereby spreading the HIV infection. It uses an enzyme called reverse transcriptase to do this. Truvada reduces the activity of reverse transcriptase, and as a result HIV-infected cells are unable to continue making copies of themselves, so the spread of infection slows down or stops.

Scientists are unsure of how long it takes for Truvada to become effective in your body. If you take one pill per day, studies suggest that it may reach its full effectiveness in blood and vaginal tissues in around 20 days, and full effectiveness in rectal tissue in around 7 days. There is no data available to determine how long Truvada takes to become effective in penile tissues.

Before you take it

Before you take this medicine for preventative purposes, it’s important to first visit a sexual health clinic, or your doctor, to determine whether Truvada is suitable for you. Your doctor will be able to arrange for you to have an STI test, including a test to confirm that you are HIV negative. It’s important to continue having these tests every three months if you are sexually active while taking Truvada.

It’s also important to take a “fourth generation HIV antibody antigen test.” This will test to see whether you are HIV negative, and will be able to give you an accurate result to see whether you have been infected within the last four weeks. It is very important that you see your doctor if you have experienced flu like symptoms recently, or you think you may have been exposed to HIV. You can also do this in private at home using a HIV test kit.

You should also take a hepatitis B test, because the active ingredient in Truvada can also suppress the hepatitis B virus. It’s important for your doctor or healthcare professional to be aware of whether this may be an issue when helping you start or stop taking Truvada. You should also take a blood test to ensure your kidneys are working properly, as there is evidence in a very small number of patients that Truvada can affect kidney function.

For those at particular risk of HIV transmission, Truvada can be very effective in preventing it. Groups identified as more at risk of contracting HIV include homosexual men, those who are of Black African origin or transgender women. However, it’s important to note that these are not the only groups of people vulnerable to HIV - just those more likely to contract it. If you are having anal or vaginal sex of any kind, or if you are sharing needles to inject drugs, you are also at risk of contracting HIV.

It’s important to continue to practice safe sex while taking Truvada, such as using condoms. Truvada does not prevent against STIs or pregnancy, so you need to take additional measures to prevent against this. Truvada is only effective at preventing HIV infection, so you should continue to practice safe sex while taking it.

If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, you should not take Truvada before speaking to your doctor. It is not known if Truvada affects an unborn baby. You should also not breastfeed while taking Truvada as it passes into breast milk. It is very important that you do not breastfeed if you have HIV as you can pass it on to your nursing baby through breast milk.

It’s legal to order Truvada online for delivery in the UK, without a prescription. Usually this is possible through companies offering online pharmacy services. This is providing you order it for your own personal use and if you’re purchasing less than three months’ supply. If you’re involved in a trial in England or have visited sexual health clinics in any of the other countries of the UK, you may not have to purchase PrEP and the NHS may provide it to you for free.

However, if you are unable to take part in a trial, or for other reasons cannot get PrEP, buying PrEP online from registered online pharmacies is legal. Some people may prefer this because of the privacy it offers - speak with your doctor or contact us for more information. Online pharmacies will typically prescribe the generic version - PrEP you get from the NHS will be branded “Truvada.” You can also pay for a private prescription for generic PrEP (emtricitabine tenofovir disoproxil) from certain clinics in the UK.

PrEP does not interact with most other medicines, including other prescription drugs. However, you should speak to your doctor before taking PrEP if you are taking any other medications. Before you take PrEP, check with your doctor or healthcare professional if any of the following medical problems apply to you.

  • If you have an allergy to any of the ingredients or medications in Truvada
  • If you have liver problems
  • If you have kidney problems or are receiving dialysis treatment
  • If you are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant
  • If you are using hormonal contraception

This is not a full list of warnings or drug interactions. For a complete list, consult the patient information leaflet.

Dosage Instructions

It takes at least 7 days, and potentially up to 20 days or longer, for Truvada becomes effective. You should make sure you begin taking Truvada at least 7 days before you plan to have sex. 30 tablets should constitute a one month supply, but if you have been instructed not to take Truvada once per day and follow a different dosage pattern, you should do as your doctor tells you.

Dosage instructions can vary depending on your sexual activity, however the safest method is to take one pill per day. Swallow it whole - do not crush, chew or suck it.

Truvada can be taken with or without food. Swallow your pills with plenty of water. You should combine taking Truvada with the use of condoms and other safe sex practices.

You should take your Truvada pill at the same time every day. Do not take more than one dose per day unless you have been directed to by your doctor or healthcare professional.

Truvada should be stored in a dry area, at room temperature. Keep Truvada out of the reach of children and pets.

Common Side Effects of Truvada

Truvada may cause some side effects. Most are mild, and are usually manageable at home, and can be discussed with your doctor or pharmacist if you are concerned. They include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Back pain
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Diarrhoea
  • Skin rash or itching

Some of the side effects caused by Truvada can be serious and potentially life-threatening. You should seek medical advice immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • New, or worsening kidney issues, including kidney failure
  • Pink or bloody urine
  • Mental or mood changes, such as anxiety or depression
  • Bone problems, such as thinning or softness
  • Non-specific symptoms that seem unrelated, such as fever (this can indicate problems with your immune system)

This is not a full list of side effects. If you want to know more about side effects you may experience while taking Truvada, refer to the patient information leaflet.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

I’m pregnant. Can I take Truvada?

Truvada has been evaluated in a limited number of women during pregnancy. Data suggests that Truvada does not affect the unborn baby, however there are no well-controlled studies that have taken place on the effect of Truvada in pregnant women. It is very important that you discuss this with your doctor before taking Truvada, and you should only take it during pregnancy if absolutely necessary.

Will it affect my contraception?

Truvada should not affect hormonal contraception in women. However, you should make sure you practice safe sex while taking Truvada, and this includes the use of hormonal contraception and condoms.

What happens if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose, this will not have any adverse physical effects but it will reduce the effectiveness of Truvada, and the chance you may contract HIV is made more likely. You should ensure that you take Truvada every day for it to be most effective. Do not take more than one dose per day, and never double up for a missed dose.

What happens if I take too much?

If you overdose on Truvada, you are likely to experience more of the side effects, or if you are already experiencing side effects they are likely to become more severe. Contact your doctor for advice if you believe you have overdosed on Truvada.

Where can I go for advice on HIV and PrEP?

If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to HIV, please visit your doctor or local sexual health clinic, where you will be able to take a HIV test and determine the next appropriate steps. If you would like more information about PrEP, your doctor or health professional will be able to advise you as to whether it is suitable for you.

More Information
Dosage Instructions Please see medicine label for the dosage instructions.