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Descovy As New HIV Medication For HIV PrEP

What is HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)?

HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is the use of medications to effectively prevent the transmission of HIV. Individuals who are taking PrEP can reduce their risk of contracting HIV infection by up to 99% if taken regularly. This type of medication must be taken before exposure to be effective. It is different from Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), which is taken immediately after possible exposure and uses additional medications.

PrEP is usually taken as a once-daily combination tablet of tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) + emtricitabine (brand name: Truvada), although other types of dosing regimens are available as well depending on the unique lifestyle of the individual. Studies have shown that PrEP is generally safe for long term use, but some may experience side effects such as a reduction in kidney function and bone density.

FDA Approved

The FDA recently approved a new drug combination of tenofovir alafenamide (TAF) + emtricitabine (brand name: Descovy) for use as PrEP, which has shown to be equally effective in preventing HIV infection whilst touting an improved safety profile for renal and bone toxicity.

The main difference between Descovy and Truvada is the form of tenofovir drug present – the newer Descovy uses TAF, which enters cells more efficiently than Truvada’s TDF, and means that a much lower dose of tenofovir is needed. This means that other tissues such as the kidney and bone are exposed to a much lower dose of the drug and there is less risk of drug toxicity.

The DISCOVER trial for Descovy as PrEP showed that the new drug is as effective as Truvada in preventing HIV transmission in men or transgender women who have sex with men, when taken as a once-daily tablet. They have not yet performed specific studies to evaluate protection in vaginal sex, or with other PrEP dosing schedules (such as Event-Based Dosing, T’s and S’s, etc.).

However, given that Descovy is essentially just a new and improved Truvada (which has been extensively studied in these situations), it is likely just a matter of time before further studies are done and show similar efficacy.

Descovy also includes a warning in usage as PrEP for patients with known hepatitis B infection, stating a potential risk of hepatitis B exacerbation after stopping the drug. While it can still be used as PrEP in patients with a history of hepatitis B infection, close monitoring of liver function and hepatitis B viral load for up to 6 months following discontinuation of Descovy is recommended (same as Truvada).

Speak To Our Doctors Today!

Descovy is currently available in all Dr Tan & Partners (DTAP clinics) in Singapore. It is a prescription-only medication and must be prescribed by a doctor. Speak to our doctors for more information about Descovy and find out if a HIV-1 treatment that contains Descovy is right for you. Dr Jonathan Ti, MB, BCh, BAO (Ireland), MRCP (UK), Cert. Men’s Health, is a member of the Singapore HIV PrEP Taskforce and is a co-author of the Singapore HIV PrEP Guidelines and is currently practising at our Robertson Walk Clinic.

HIV PrEP does not protect the user against other STDs. Therefore, even if you are on HIV PrEP, it is important to still to use a condom regularly, as well as get your regular STD screening & HIV Testing.

If you are interested to find out more about HIV PrEPplease call our any of our clinics or drop us an email at hello@dtapclinic.com for an appointment with our doctors.

7 FAQs HIV Pre-Exposure prophylaxis (HIV PrEP)

HIV Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a combination of 2 HIV medicines, sold under the name of Truvada (Tenofovir and Emtricitabine), when taken daily lowers the chances of a very high-risk HIV negative individual from getting infected with HIV.
Do not mistake this for Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) which is taken for 28 days after potential exposure to the HIV virus.
The precept is simple, take one pill a day and you are protected from getting HIV.
Also Read: A Guide To HIV PrEP And HIV PEP – Pills For HIV Prevention

7 Frequent Asked Questions on HIV Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP):

1) How effective is HIV Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)?

When used daily, it can lower the risk of getting HIV from sexual intercourse by 99%.
The protection against getting HIV from sharing needles is lower at about 70%.
Being on PrEP is NOT AN EXCUSE for going bareback. Using a condom further reduces the risk of getting HIV. Also, PrEP does NOT protect against other STDs. But condoms DO!
Also, remember that medicines work only if they are taken properly.
Also Read: STD Symptoms – That You Need to Know 

2) How to Take HIV Pre exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)

a. Event-Based HIV Dosing


On-Demand PrEP Regimen: 
Planned condom-less sex 24 hours in advance:
Strictly:

  • take 2 pills 2 – 24 hours before sex
  • take 1 pill on the day of sex
  • take 1 pill 24 hours later

If having sex for an extended period of time, perhaps over a few days or a weekend, continue to take a pill every 24 hours until you have 2 sex-free days.

Type: 

  • Only for Anal sex
  • More studies required to show effectiveness in Vaginal/Frontal sex

Considerations:

  • This option is not recommended if you have an active hepatitis B infection. The drugs in PrEP also suppress the hepatitis B virus and so starting and stopping HIV PrEP can potentially cause viral flare-ups and liver inflammation.

b. Daily PrEP

Daily PrEP Regimen: 

  • Lead-in time 7 days.
  • Taken daily at the same time  +/- a few hours ok

Type:

  • Anal, Vaginal/Frontal sex

Considerations:

  • Can be taken any time of the day with or without food
  • In the event a pill is missed, adequate protection is still conferred.

c. Ts and Ss (Tues, Thurs, Sat, Sun dosing)


Ts and Ss Regimen:

  • Daily dosing for 7 days,
  • then dropping down to 4 pills per week on Tues/Thurs/Sat/Sun

Type: 

  • Only for Anal sex
  • More studies required to show effectiveness in Vaginal/Frontal sex

Considerations:

  • If you only have sex once or twice a month, you might not want to take a pill every day.
  • 4 pills per week will maintain a good baseline of the drug in your system and you can choose to increase up to daily 7 pills per week when you know you’re in a more sexually active period.
  • Some people using PrEP On Demand find that they might be taking 4 pills per week most weeks of the month and so opt for structuring this into the Ts and Ss instead.

d. Holiday PrEP

Holiday PrEP Regimen:

  • PrEP before a pre-planned block of time when your risk of exposure to HIV will be higher due to:
    • an increased number of partners of unknown HIV status
    • situations where condoms are not easily or always used
    • where alcohol or substances might be used
    • having sex while travelling to a country with a high HIV prevalence
  • Based on a 7-day period we recommend 7-7-7:
    • 7 days daily dosing before the period
    • 7 days daily dosing during the period (or for as long as the specific period lasts)
    • 7 days daily dosing after the period.

Type: 

  • Anal, Vaginal/Frontal sex

Considerations:

  • 7 days of PrEP before and after your last sexual encounter for several reasons:
    • 7 days lead-in provides adequate levels for both anal and vaginal or frontal sex.
    • 7 days lead in before the holiday or travel will allow the body to adjust to any possible side effects; most people do not experience any, but should you have side effects, these will usually have subsided within a week.

3. Who should consider HIV Pre exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)?

  • If your partner is living with HIV
  • If you are not is a mutually monogamous relationship
  • If you have been diagnosed with an STD in the past 6 months

4. How long after initiation of HIV PrEP will it then provide protection?

The general rule is that you have to be on PrEP for 7 days before you are protected.
There are ways to speed this up and there are circumstances when this is longer. Please check with our doctor when you consult for your PrEP prescription.
Also Read: When To Test For HIV During Or After Completing HIV PEP

5. What are the side effects of HIV PrEP? Is it safe to take it long term?

PrEP is relatively safe. When side effects do occur, most common symptoms are nausea and diarrhoea. Generally, these symptoms usually subside over time. No serious side effects have been recorded and the side effects are never life-threatening.
However, if you do develop side effects that are not improving with time, please contact the doctor that prescribed you the PrEP.

6. How can I purchase PrEP?

You will need to consult a doctor first and he may go through with you your risks based on the type of sexual behaviour. The doctor will also run some blood tests, including HIV, Hepatitis screen, and other blood tests such as full blood count, kidney function test and liver function test. If there are no contraindications, the doctor will then prescribe you PrEP.
Learn more about Anonymous HIV Testing

7. Since PrEP is effective in providing protection, can I not use a condom for oral and anal sex?

Always use a condom. PrEP doesn’t give you 100 per cent protection. Using a condom while on PrEP significantly lowers your risk further. Besides that, HIV PrEP doesn’t protect you against other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia which can infect the throat, anus and penile urethra.
While on PrEP it is recommended to screen for HIV and other STDs regularly. We provide Rapid HPV Testing & Rapid Gonorrhoea & Chlamydia PCR Testing (Next Day Results).
Learn more about Descovy (New HIV Medication For HIV PrEP)

Descovy (brand name) is a FDA approved new drug combination of tenofovir alafenamide (TAF) + emtricitabine for use as HIV PrEP, which has shown to be equally effective in preventing HIV infection whilst touting an improved safety profile for renal and bone toxicity.

Descovy is currently available in all Dr Tan & Partners (DTAP clinics) in Singapore. It is a prescription only medication and must be prescribed by a doctor. Speak to our doctors for more information about Descovy and find out if a HIV-1 treatment that contains Descovy is right for you.

Take Care!


Other Reads:

  1. HPV Infection & HPV Vaccination for Men who have sex with Men
  2. A Guide To HIV PrEP and HIV PEP – Pills for HIV Prevention
  3. Do I Have HIV Rash? Or Are They Other STD-Related Rashes?
  4. What are the Causes of Abnormal Penile Discharge?
  5. STD Risk for Receptive Unprotected Anal Sex in Men
  6. Low HIV Risk Doesn’t Mean No HIV Risk
  7. HIV PrEP for Travel – How You Need to Know
  8. An Overview on STD from an STD Doctor
  9. Everything You Need to Know about Herpes Simplex Virus
  10. How Do I Treat Oral Herpes (Cold Sores)
  11. Syphilis Symptoms – Painless Sore & Ulcers
  12. HIV Symptoms – What You Need to Know
  13. 10 Common HIV related Opportunistic Infections

HIV PrEP for Travel – Things You Need to Know

What is HIV PrEP?

Use of oral anti-retroviral drugs by HIV-uninfected people to block the acquisition of HIV before exposure to HIV.

Why HIV PrEP?

Many trials have been conducted to determine the effectiveness of oral HIV PrEP across couples of all orientations. When patients follow the treatment and prevention strategies closely, significant prevention of HIV levels was achieved
In 2014, WHO (World Health Organisation) developed consolidated HIV guidelines for key populations, including men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people. In those guidelines, HIV PrEP was strongly recommended for men who have sex with men (MSM).6
During travel, the risk of acquiring HIV is the result of a change of HIV prevalence at the destination, and more importantly the change of sexual behaviour abroad and the increase of risk-taking behaviour. Studies have shown that amongst the MSM community, awareness of a special form of PrEP use, often described as “holiday PrEP” is becoming increasingly popular. This holds true even for MSM who do not consider themselves to be at high risk for HIV.7

How?

Prior to starting PrEP, your doctor will do blood tests to monitor your kidney and liver function, a full STI screen if you have not had one recently and also an HIV test.
Subsequently when on PrEP, your renal function will be monitored every quarter. Long-term PrEP use will also require monitoring of your bone density.

When?

How you take your PrEP depends on10:

  • how far in advance you plan on having sex
  • how regularly you have sex.

It does not necessarily depend on how much sex you have.

There are 4 Different Ways to Use HIV PrEP

There are 4 different ways to take PrEP, we discuss this further below:

1. Daily PrEP


Daily PrEP Regimen: 

  • Lead in time 7 days.
  • Taken daily at the same time  +/- a few hours ok

Type:

  • Anal, Vaginal/Frontal sex

Considerations:

  • Can be taken any time of the day with or without food
  • In the event a pill is missed, adequate protection is still conferred.

2. On-Demand PrEP (Event-Based Dosing)

On-Demand PrEP Regimen: 
Planned condom-less sex 24 hours in advance:
Strictly:

  • take 2 pills 2 – 24 hours before sex
  • take 1 pill on the day of sex
  • take 1 pill 24 hours later

If having sex for an extended period of time, perhaps over a few days or a weekend, continue to take a pill every 24 hours until you have 2 sex-free days.


The regime requires the patient to take 2 tablets of the HIV PrEP medicine between 2 to 24 hours prior to the event followed by 1 tablet 24 hours after the initial dose and a final tablet 48 hours after the initial dose. Medical studies show that the protection provided against HIV for this regime is not as good as if the medicine is taken daily.
Furthermore, thus the regime is more complex and therefore increases the risk of the patient taking the wrong amount of medicine at the wrong time.

Type: 

  • Only for Anal sex
  • More studies required to show effectiveness in Vaginal/Frontal sex

Considerations:

  • This option is not recommended if you have an active hepatitis B infection. The drugs in PrEP also suppress the hepatitis B virus and so starting and stopping PrEP can cause viral flare-ups and liver inflammation.

3. Ts and Ss (Tues, Thurs, Sat, Sun dosing)


Ts and Ss Regimen:

  • Daily dosing for 7 days,
  • then dropping down to 4 pills per week on Tues/Thurs/Sat/Sun

Type: 

  • Only for Anal sex
  • More studies required to show effectiveness in Vaginal/Frontal sex

Considerations:

  • If you only have sex once or twice a month, you might not want to take a pill every day.
  • 4 pills per week will maintain a good baseline of the drug in your system and you can choose to increase up to daily 7 pills per week when you know you’re in a more sexually active period.
  • Some people using PrEP On Demand find that they might be taking 4 pills per week most weeks of the month and so opt for structuring this into the Ts and Ss instead.

4. Holiday PrEP


Holiday PrEP Regimen:

  • PrEP before a pre-planned block of time when your risk of exposure to HIV will be higher due to:
    • an increased number of partners of unknown HIV status
    • situations where condoms are not easily or always used
    • where alcohol or substances might be used
    • having sex while travelling to a country with a high HIV prevalence
  • Based on a 7-day period we recommend 7-7-7:
    • 7 days daily dosing before the period
    • 7 days daily dosing during the period (or for as long as the specific period lasts)
    • 7 days daily dosing after the period.

Type: 

  • Anal, Vaginal/Frontal sex

Considerations:

  • 7 days of PrEP before and after your last sexual encounter for several reasons:
    • 7 days lead-in provides adequate levels for both anal and vaginal or frontal sex.
    • 7 days lead in before the holiday or travel will allow the body to adjust to any possible side effects, most people do not experience any and these should have subsided within a week.

Worry Less, Worry Free!
PrEP is an ‘opt-in’ treatment – it is not meant to be taken forever.
Trying to stay HIV negative during the holiday or trip result in an anxious and stressful experience.
Your peace of mind and release from this stress and anxiety is important so that you can enjoy the moments that matter with your partner!
Safe Trip and Have Fun!
This article was written by Dr Tan & Partners, in collaboration with Oogachaga.


References

  1. Vivancos R, Abubakar I, Hunter PR. Foreign travel, casual sex, and sexually transmitted infections: systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2010;14(10):e842–51.
  2. Svensson P.,et al. A meta-analysis and systematic literature review of factors associated with sexual risk-taking during international travel. Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease. 2018; Jul – Aug;24:65-88
  3. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/std
  4. https://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/advice/general-travel-health-advice/sexual-health-risks
  5. Riddell Jt, Amico KR, Mayer KH. HIV Preexposure Prophylaxis: A Review. Jama. 2018;319(12):1261-8.
  6. WHO Guidelines Approved by the Guidelines Review Committee. Guideline on When to Start Antiretroviral Therapy and on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis for HIV. Geneva: World Health Organization Copyright (c) World Health Organization 2015.; 2015.
  7. Elsesser SA, Oldenburg CE, Biello KB, Mimiaga MJ, Safren SA, Egan JE, et al. Seasons of Risk: Anticipated Behavior on Vacation and Interest in Episodic Antiretroviral Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Among a Large National Sample of U.S. Men Who have Sex with Men (MSM). AIDS and behavior. 2016;20(7):1400-7.
  8. Brett-Major DM, Scott PT, Crowell TA, Polyak CS, Modjarrad K, Robb ML, et al. Are you PEPped and PrEPped for travel? Risk mitigation of HIV infection for travelers. Tropical diseases, travel medicine and vaccines. 2016;2:25
  9. Hampel B, Reinacher M, Fehr JS, HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP): Is it time to rethink HIV prevention in travelers?, Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease (2018), doi: 10.1016/j.tmaid.2018.06.008
  10. https://www.iwantprepnow.co.uk/how-to-take-prep/

What is HIV PrEP & Event-Driven Based HIV PrEP Strategy?

What is HIV PrEP?

HIV PrEP is an option for HIV prevention and involves taking medication that can reduce the risk of HIV transmission by up to 95% if taken properly.
Most of the time, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or HIV PrEP for short is taken as a daily tablet and needs to be taken consistently to provide the greatest level of protection.
HIV PrEP is recommended for at-risk groups, including men-who-have-sex-with-men, patients who have a known partner who is living with HIV (PLHIV), or those with multiple partners of unknown HIV status.

What is the difference between HIV PEP (HIV Post Exposure Prophylaxis) & HIV PrEP?

HIV PrEP should not be mistaken for HIV PEP or HIV Post Exposure Prophylaxis.

HIV PEP is for any individual who is at risk of HIV infection after an HIV exposed to HIV to take HIV medicines for a month to reduce his or her chances of HIV infection.

HIV Pre Exposure prophylaxis and HIV Post Exposure Prophylaxis do not 100% reduce your chances of HIV infection, nor prevent you from being infected with other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) besides HIV.

HIV PEP as an HIV prevention strategy was first developed for healthcare workers, who are being exposed to contaminated blood or needles prick. It has since expanded to other HIV high-risk activities such as sexual exposure and intravenous drugs used.

Another development of HIV prevention is by using HIV Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) as a strategy to reduce the chances of HIV infection even before any potential HIV exposure.

What is Event Driven Based HIV PrEP Strategy?

Some people may find that taking a daily table is just not suitable for them.
If this is the case, they may consider an option called Event-Based Dosing, or EBD for short.
This entails taking tablets one day before the exposure, the days of exposure, and for one day after the last exposure.
It is a much shorter course of tablets than regular HIV PrEP, and can still provide a high level of protection from HIV, with up to 85% risk reduction.
HIV PrEP is most effective when used in combination with other protective strategies such as condoms and regular STD screening.

Descovy As New HIV Medication For HIV PrEP

Descovy (brand name) is a FDA approved new drug combination of tenofovir alafenamide (TAF) + emtricitabine for use as HIV PrEP, which has shown to be equally effective in preventing HIV infection whilst touting an improved safety profile for renal and bone toxicity.

Descovy is currently available in all Dr Tan & Partners (DTAP clinics) in Singapore. It is a prescription only medication and must be prescribed by a doctor. Speak to our doctors for more information about Descovy and find out if a HIV-1 treatment that contains Descovy is right for you.

If you are interested in learning more about HIV PrEP or EBD, please come down to our any of our clinics to speak to our doctors, and see if these options are suitable for you. You can learn more about the What is HIV PrEP or HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis.
We can advise you in more detail on the indications, dosage and timing, and potential side effects of the medications, as well as how to follow up with appropriate HIV Testing and STD testing.
Take Care!


Other Reads:

  1. Do I Have HIV Rash? Or Are They Other STD-Related Rashes?
  2. The HIV Proviral DNA Test can be done 10 days post exposure.
  3. Weak Erection? Erectile Dysfunction? How to Improve Erection with Pills
  4. HPV Infection & HPV Vaccination for Men who have sex with Men
  5. STD Risk for Receptive Unprotected Anal Sex in Men
  6. Low HIV Risk Doesn’t Mean No HIV Risk
  7. HIV PrEP for Travel – How You Need to Know
  8. An Overview on STD from an STD Doctor
  9. Everything You Need to Know about Herpes Simplex Virus
  10. How Do I Treat Oral Herpes (Cold Sores)
  11. Syphilis Symptoms – Painless Sore & Ulcers
  12. HIV Symptoms – What You Need to Know
  13. 10 Common HIV related Opportunistic Infections