Book an appointment

Book a free appointment for COVID-19 antibody testing.

Sofie Wise

Shannon Chapman

Read more posts by this author.

About Author — 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.

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.

PrEP Side Effects: What are the Risks?

PrEP is a prevention program that involves taking medication (Truvada) 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.

Side Effects of PrEP for HIV

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


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


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

HIV Prevention

Get PrEP in Los Angeles

Get PrEP in Los Angeles If you’re reading this article, you may have heard about PrEP, a medication that helps prevent HIV. Let’s talk more about what PrEP is, how it works, how effective it is, who should take it, and where you can get PrEP in Los Angeles. What is PrEP? PrEP is an […]

Jennifer Nelson
HIV Prevention

How to Get PrEP

How to Get PrEP for HIV Sexually transmitted diseases are a common health problem for anyone who is sexually active. The growth of medicine and technology has thankfully allowed people to enjoy positive sex lives while significantly reducing the risk of STDs. HIV was historically one of the most prominent STDs, and medication has progressed […]

Andy Wong
HIV Prevention

PrEP Doctor Speaks Out: An Interview with Dr. James Wantuck

PrEP Doctor Speaks Out: An Interview with Dr. James Wantuck Dr. James Wantuck is the Chief Medical Officer and Founder of PlushCare. After spending years working in the medical field, Dr. Wantuck decided that there must be a better way to do medicine. He found the current medical system difficult and frustrating – both for […]

Sofie Wise
HIV Prevention

How Effective is PrEP for HIV?

How Effective is PrEP? HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, affects an estimated 1.2 million people in the US, and many of them are unaware that they are infected. On average, there are about 50,000 new HIV infections in the country every year. While medicine, particularly the use of condoms, has progressed to ensure that HIV […]

Shannon Chapman
HIV Prevention

Get PrEP in San Francisco

Get PrEP in San Francisco If you’re at risk of HIV infection, you may have heard about PrEP. What is PrEP, how does it work, and where can you get PrEP in San Francisco? Let’s talk about it. What is PrEP? PrEP is short for pre-exposure prophylaxis. While PrEP includes a medication called Truvada that […]

Jennifer Nelson