Have you heard of Truvada as a medication for Pre-Exposture Prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV?
HIV PrEP is the use of antiretroviral medication to prevent HIV infection in a person who is HIV negative but have substantial risk for HIV infection.
This article contains all you need to know about the PrEP drug called Truvada in simple terms.
- Truvada is a combination of emtricitabine and tenofovir. Both emtricitabine and tenofovir are called nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs).
- It comes as tablets and it is taken orally.
- Truvada is a brand name patented by Gilead.
- Truvada helps to reduce the risk of contracting HIV through unprotected sex.
- If taken religiously according to prescription, it is 90 percent effective.
- People who use PrEP must commit to taking the drug every day and seeing their health care provider for follow-up every 3 months.
- Truvada is not a cure for HIV and does not always protect against HIV infection.
- It is however a common drug among commercial sex workers and men having sex with men(MSM).
- Only HIV negative individuals can take Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).
- HIV negative individuals in a relationship with HIV positive partner can take PrEP.
- PrEP must be taken daily for it to work . However, there are several factors that may necessitate the discontinuation of the medication. If your risk of getting HIV infection becomes low due to lifestyle changes, you may stop taking PrEP.
- Truvada is on the World Health Organization’s list of Essential Medicines. It is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- In Nigeria, PrEP was approved in 2015 by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC).
- Truvada worsens hepatitis B infection. So it is not recommended for persons with this infection.
- The common side effects of truvada are diarrhoea, headache, dizziness, insomnia, liver problems, loss of bone density, joint pains, kidney injury, low back pain, abdominal pains, low back pain and among others.
- Not every one will suffer these adverse effects.
- PreP should not be taken with didanosine, atazanavir, lopinavir, ritonavir, adefovir, lamivudine and vicristine because of adverse drug interactions.
- It is not documented that PrEP is harmful in pregnancy. But all the same, avoid it when pregnant and let your doctor know if you have to use it during this period.
- It is secreted in breast milk.
- Critics, religious leaders, and public health experts have expressed fear that truvada may encourage irresponsible sexual practices and spread of other sexually transmitted infeinfections like syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis b and LGV.
- PrEP in the long run may decrease condom use as it provides a false sense of security but it can be used alongside condom.
- Many Nigerians do not know about PrEP.
- PreP has not been fully adopted across Africa as public health officials had expected. In Kenya, an estimated 28,000 people are taking PrEP, around #8,500 in South Africa, 3,500 in Zimbabwe and only 400 in Nigeria as at 2018.
- Truvada is expensive. In the USA, it costs about $1,300 (#468,000) per month without insurance. In Nigeria, the price cannot be ascertained but it is said to be very expensive. Government cannot find procurement of PrEP alongside antiretroviral drugs.
- Many hospitals in Nigeria do not have Truvada. I advise you check clinics specifically meant for HIV patients. But it will be at a high cost.