Written on May 22, 2023 by Lori Mulligan, MPH. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Before revealing how long it takes for Descovy®, an oral HIV antiviral, to become effective, it is essential to know a few key points. It is useful to know why we need Descovy®, its contribution to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and its characteristics.
When you consider both the progress and the ongoing challenges in ending the HIV pandemic, you will understand why we need Descovy® and the important role it plays in HIV prevention.
Consider the following global HIV statistics :
And here are some statistics on new HIV infections :
PrEP is a selection of FDA-approved medicines that are used to prevent HIV infection in at-risk adults and adolescents. When taken as prescribed, PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV.
PrEP involves taking the combination drug emtricitabine-tenofovir (Truvada®) or emtricitabine plus tenofovir alafenamide (Descovy®) every day.
An injection of cabotegravir (Apertude®) is also available for PrEP and is recommended for high-risk adults and adolescents who have a bad reaction to oral medications or have trouble adhering to the daily pill schedule.
Descovy® for PrEP is an oral pill for those at risk of getting HIV through sex, but it’s not for everyone.
Because there has been a lack of clinical studies, Descovy® is not for people assigned female at birth who are at risk for HIV through receptive vaginal sex.
Studies have shown that Descovy® is safe. No significant health effects have been seen in people who are HIV-negative.
Some people taking Descovy® may have side effects like nausea, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, and stomach pain.
These side effects are usually not serious and go away over time. If you are taking PrEP, tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effects that bother you or that do not go away.
And be aware: PrEP protects you against HIV but not against other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or other types of infections. Combining PrEP with condoms will reduce your risk of getting other STIs.
For receptive anal sex (bottoming), Descovy® pills reach maximum protection from HIV at about seven days of daily use. No data are available for Descovy® pill effectiveness for insertive anal sex (topping) or insertive vaginal sex.
You will need a negative HIV test before you start taking PrEP and then every three months as long as you’re taking it.
PrEP involves taking Descovy® every day. Having PrEP medicine in your bloodstream can stop HIV from taking hold and spreading in your body.
The following are goals for the future of PrEP:
If you think you may have been exposed to HIV or have questions about your sexual health, book a video appointment via Everlywell's STD telehealth option. This lets you to speak with a clinician who can start you on your path to diagnosis and treatment. (Age 18+)
This at-home HIV test will check for exposure to HIV. The test measures antibodies and antigens related to HIV. If your test results are abnormal, you can connect with our independent physician network at no additional cost to discuss your particular case.