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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.

HIV Singapore 2019

In June 2019, the Ministry of Health (MOH) released an update on the HIV/AIDS (Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) situation in Singapore 2018.
Here are the salient statistics and a short commentary for each.

  • There were 313 new cases of HIV infections reported among Singapore residents in 2018
    • There were 8,295 HIV-infected Singapore residents as of end 2018, of whom 2,034 had passed away.
    • The number of new HIV cases among Singapore residents has been between 400 to 500 per year from 2007 to 2017

The number of cases has dropped slightly – from 400-500 a year to 313 last year. In 2017 it was 434 new cases. In 2016 it was 408 new cases. While no reasons were provided as to why the numbers last year were lower, it is a step in the right direction for organisations like Action for AIDS, which is committed to ending HIV transmission and AIDS in Singapore by 2030. Safer sex practices such as the consistent and correct use of condoms and reducing high-risk sexual behaviour such as being faithful to one’s partner, avoiding casual sex and avoiding sex with commercial sex workers are some ways we can further reduce transmission of HIV. The usage of medications such as pre-exposure prophylaxis and post-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP and PEP) can also reduce the risk of contracting HIV.

  • The age and sex distribution of the 313 cases
    • 93% were male
    • 62% were between 20 to 49 years old

The majority of new cases are men, and usually in the age group of 20-49. Males of this age group might have a tendency to engage in high-risk sexual behaviour. Education about HIV transmission and prevention for everyone, especially for males aged 20-49 is crucial for the aim of reduction of new cases.

  • 95% acquired the infection through sexual intercourse
    • 43% were from heterosexual transmission
    • 42% were from homosexual transmission
    • 10% were from bisexual transmission.

For the first time, the rate of heterosexual transmission was greater than the rate of homosexual transmission for HIV. This could be due to increased awareness of HIV and its transmission in the homosexual population.
A recent local study by researchers from the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore (NUS) has estimated that around 210,000 men have sexual intercourse with other men, which is more than twice an earlier estimate of 90,000. The researchers have identified four groups that have the highest risk of getting and transmitting HIV, which are
– Males who have sex with other males (210,000)
– Male clients of female sex workers (72,000)
– Female sex workers (4,200)
– Intravenous drug users (11,000)
These are the groups that are most at risk, and are the groups we need to increase screening rates and education about HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well.

  • About 50% had late-stage HIV infection when they were diagnosed

HIV can be treated effectively – it is no longer the death sentence it was when HIV was first discovered. We know that the earlier we initiate treatment for HIV, the better the outcomes and life expectancy. All that is required to test for HIV is a small amount of blood and more importantly, ownership of your health. We highly advise everyone who engages in high-risk sexual behaviour regularly test for not just HIV, but other STIs as well.

  • Methods of detection
    • 57% were detected in the course of medical care provision
      • Such cases are typically at the late stage of HIV infection.
    • 22% were detected during routine programmatic HIV screening
    • 14% were detected from voluntary screening.
      • Such cases were more likely to be at an early stage of infection.

When someone presents at the late stage of HIV infection, outcomes and life expectancy are poorer. HIV ideally should never be discovered this way. HIV infection can be completely asymptomatic, especially in the early stages, and the only way to detect infection is to test for it.
The goal is to increase voluntary screening rates so that we can detect HIV early on, before the onset of AIDS. HIV infected people can lead normal, long, healthy lives with proper treatment. HIV testing is available at polyclinics, private clinics, and hospitals. There are also anonymous HIV test sites, where personal particulars are not required when signing up for an HIV test.
The Health Promotion Board (HPB) has been working with partner organisations to conduct educational programmes and campaigns to reach out to high-risk individuals to urge them to go for regular HIV testing. It is good to know that our government is taking steps to increase awareness and increase rates of HIV screening. We should do ours too by taking charge of our health by reducing high-risk sexual behaviour, and getting tested regularly should there be any high-risk sexual activity.


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  5. What You Need To Know about HPV, Cervical Cancer, Pap Smear & HPV Vaccination
  6. Anonymous HIV Testing – What You Need to Know
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When To Test For HIV During or After Completing HIV PEP

HIV Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) has been established as a cornerstone of HIV prevention in the last 20 years. With newer, well-tolerated medications and better access to medical care, PEP has shown itself to be a safe and effective weapon in our arsenal against HIV infection.

Read: A Guide to HIV PrEP & HIV PEP (Pills for HIV Prevention)

For those individuals who have been in the unfortunate position of needing PEP, the next question is invariable:

When can I test for HIV after I finish PEP?

There are very few studies that have examined the “earliest time” you can do an HIV test after taking PEP and have conclusive results. There are some theories that taking PEP can increase the window period for testing by delaying the appearance of HIV antigen or antibodies in the blood – these have neither been proven or debunked, although evidence is weighted towards the latter.
Current data would suggest that p24 antigen and antibody response is not significantly affected by these antiviral medications, but these studies have mainly been done on individuals taking Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). As the medications used for PrEP and PEP are essentially the same, we can extrapolate this data to post-PEP testing as well. Confounding factors to these studies include patient adherence to PrEP/PEP regime as well as any instances of ongoing high-risk exposures during the course of medication and/or after.

Immediately After Completing PEP

Both the US CDC 2016 guidelines and joint WHO/ILO 2005 guidelines for PEP recommend HIV testing at baseline before starting medication and immediately after completing PEP (i.e. 4 weeks post-exposure as per regular non-PEP users), as well as 3-6 months post-exposure.
Importantly, the US CDC guidelines also states that patients keen to start on HIV PrEP after their HIV PEP can do so immediately following the completion of 28-day PEP, and provided the patient has a negative 4th generation HIV Antigen/Antibody test: “Because no evidence exists that prophylactic antiretroviral use delays seroconversion and PEP is highly effective when taken as prescribed, a gap is unnecessary between ending PEP and beginning PrEP.” Again, this suggests strongly that testing immediately after completing PEP is sufficiently conclusive to exclude an HIV infection.
Some studies done in animals have shown HIV DNA/RNA PCR testing during HIV PEP can sometimes even show a positive HIV viral load, with follow up testing after completing the medication showing a negative result. This could represent a successfully aborted infection, which is exactly the point of PEP in the first place.
We do not usually recommend HIV DNA/RNA PCR testing during or after completion of HIV PEP, as we know that the medication can and will suppress the viral load the same way it does in chronic HIV infection – this means that even a negative PCR viral load test may be a false negative, with viral load increasing again in a true infection a few months after the medication has been stopped.

Read: HIV Window Period (Timelines for Accurate HIV Test)

Personally, I have not encountered any patients who have taken PEP and tested negative at 28 days to subsequently have their results change to HIV positive in follow-up testing, except in a single case where the patient had ongoing high-risk exposures during and after their PEP medication.

Read: How to Get An Anonymous HIV Test in Singapore

In summary, post-PEP testing can be performed immediately following the completion of medication (i.e. 28 days or more post-exposure) with a 4th generation Antigen/Antibody test with good certainty, although guidelines will still recommend one last test at 3 months or more post-exposure as a precaution.
Current clinical experience indicates that the test at the end of PEP is essentially conclusive and sufficient to ensure that PEP is successful and HIV infection has been prevented, but higher-powered studies are required to confirm this.
It is still best to speak to the doctor who prescribed you the PEP or who will be following up with your care, as they will be most familiar with local testing methods and guidelines.
If you believe you have had a potential high-risk exposure within the last 72 hours, you may consider Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP). Please contact us for a consultation if you think you need PEP.
If you have any questions or concerns, please visit our online forum on sexual health, HIV and STDs.
If you wish to speak to any of our doctors in regards to HIV PEP or HIV Testing, you can visit any of our clinics or drop us an email at hello@dtapclinic.com for an appointment.
Take Care!


Other Reads:

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  2. Do I Have HIV Rash? Or Are They Other STD-Related Rashes?
  3. What are the Causes of Abnormal Penile Discharge?
  4. HIV PrEP for Travel – How You Need to Know
  5. An Overview on STD from an STD Doctor
  6. Why Do I Have AbnormalVaginal Discharge
  7. How Late Can a Period Be (Delayed Menstrual Cycle)
  8. Everything You Need to Know about Herpes Simplex Virus
  9. How Do I Treat Oral Herpes (Cold Sores)
  10. Syphilis Symptoms – Painless Sore & Ulcers
  11. HIV Symptoms – What You Need to Know
  12. 10 Common HIV related Opportunistic Infections
  13. HIV Pro-Viral DNA Test


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 Frequently 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

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