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PrEP Side Effects

July 28, 2020 Read Time - 4 minutes

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Shannon enjoys breaking down technical subjects and giving others the tools to make informed decisions. Her interests include behavioral economics, sustainable living, meditation, and healthy cooking.

PrEP Side Effects: What are the Risks?

PrEP is a prevention program that involves taking medication and undergoing HIV testing every 90 days.

When starting PrEP most people experience no side effects at all, but taking PrEP can come with some short-term side effects, such as dizziness and nausea.

Learn more about the side effects of PrEP and if PrEP is right for you.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

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Side Effects of PrEP for HIV

PrEP medication has under gone a number of clinical trials and it is completely safe and effective in preventing HIV infections. However, there were some reported side effects.


Only one in ten people report short-term side effects after starting PrEP.


Commonly reported PrEP side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea

These short-term side effects usually start in week one or two, but go away over the first few weeks.


There were no reports of sexual side effects from individuals in any study.


Less than 2% of people in clinical trials reported:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Headaches
  • Weight loss
  • Back pain
  • Anxiety/depression
  • Diarrhea

Some longer term PrEP side effects were also reported in clinical trials.


Some individuals experienced decreased kidney function. The compounds in PrEP can cause small increases in serum creatinine, a molecule usually filtered by kidneys.

Because of this increase, kidney function can decrease. In rare occasions, this resulted in kidney failure.

A rare number of individuals experienced slight decreases in bone mineral density just in the first month. The changes did not get worse or increase the risk of fracture.

After stopping taking PrEP, bone density and kidney function returned to normal no matter the length of time spent taking PrEP.


In very few cases, individuals suffered from serious medical emergencies including:

  • Blood with too much lactic acid – Also called lactic acidosis, symptoms include fatigue, muscle pain, nausea, shortness of breath, stomach pain, dizziness, blue or cold feet or hands, and abnormal heartbeats.
  • Worsening of HBV infection – Hepatitis B or HBV can become worse if you stop taking PrEP due to how the infection reacts with the compounds in PrEP. You should not stop taking PrEP if you have HBV without consulting a healthcare professional and under going several months of monitoring.
  • Serious liver problems – The compounds in PrEP can cause a development of fat in the liver increasing the size and tenderness. This results in jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), light-colored stools, dark brown urine, nausea, stomach pain, and loss of appetite.

All of these very serious PrEP side effects, while extremely rare, are life-threatening and you should see a doctor immediately if you exhibit any of these symptoms.


When You Want to Stop PrEP

Research shows that PrEP presents no long-term effects on health, so you can generally stop without needing to worry about any pre exposure prophylaxis side effects.

You may consider stopping PrEP for a variety of reasons:

  • Changes in your life may have lowered your risk of contracting an HIV infection.
  • You may forget to take pills every day or otherwise not want to take a daily medication, in which case other methods of protecting yourself from HIV may work better, such as condoms.

Condoms remain one of the most effective means of preventing HIV. While PrEP has been shown to be highly effective, you should not stop using condoms while using PrEP.


PrEP will not protect you from other sexually transmitted diseases, particularly chlamydia and gonorrhea.


  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

Book an appointment

How to Get PrEP Now

If you are wondering how to get PrEP as fast as possible, simply speak with your doctor about it. PrEP can only be prescribed by a professional health care provider.

You are required to take an HIV test before you begin PrEP, and you must get tested for HIV every 3 months while you are taking PrEP medication. Be open with your doctor, and ask any questions you may have.

Since the cost of PrEP is quite high, it’s best to find insurance to get PrEP medication or to look into payment assistance programs.


At PlushCare, you can talk to a doctor, get lab tests ordered, and a prescription for PrEP online.


Our team of experienced doctors have been trained at some of the top medical institutions in the nation, ensuring that you are in capable care.

We also offer lab tests for HIV & STDs as well as payment assistance. If you would like to start PrEP or want to learn more about how to pay for PrEP, book an appointment with one of our doctors today.


Read more from our PrEP and HIV Prevention Series:


Sources

Truvada.com. Truvada Side Effects. Accessed October 10, 2019, at https://www.truvada.com/what-is-truvada/side-effects

Standforhealthcare.org. PrEP. Accessed October 10, 2019, at https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-conditions/sexual-and-reproductive-health/hiv-aids/treatments/prep.html

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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