PrEP Journey: Side Effects
I’m not sure if I shared this with you, but I came to learn about PrEP through being broke. I was just out of school and need some cash to make rent that month. I found a research study that was trying to see if tracking my PrEP use on my cell phone was an effective tool to keep me on the medication. I thought the study was fun and different.
I was getting introduced to a revolutionary drug that would put my fears of contracting HIV behind me. The little blue pill eased my mind. Sex is very personal for me and the people I share it with are important to me. So kinda like the birth control pill, I felt like I was doing my part to keep my partners and myself safe.
Side effects of PrEP
Throughout the initial experience of taking PrEP, I was informed of the potential side effects and I still pay close attention to them myself. So the most immediate and common side effects of PrEP, and here I am talking specifically about the drug Truvada are headache, nausea, vomiting, rash, and loss of appetite.1
How I managed with the side effects
So it sounds daunting, but of those symptoms, I personally experienced the headache and slight nausea. This was initially during the first few weeks of me being on the medication and it did eventually go away. I had a great relationship with my doctors at the CORE Center in Chicago and we talked about taking PrEP at night. I tried that approach by taking it right before I went to sleep and it actually was helpful. I rested well and I woke up feeling normal.
Doctor visits for PrEP
Okay, so those short-term conditions go away eventually. It is important, though, to be in the care of a doctor when you’re on PrEP. This is so that they can monitor your HIV status. If you are on Truvada and you contract HIV you need to be on a complete drug therapy regimen. Although the drugs in Truvada are apart of some HIV treatment therapies, it is not a complete regimen to control HIV if it is in your system.
The second reason is that tenofovir, one of the drugs in Truvada, can cause kidney and bone damage long term. Having a doctor monitor your blood labs is a way to catch abnormalities in your kidney function. So seeing a doctor every three months is vital.
The future of PrEP for HIV prevention
Considering these factors, I feel like Truvada is an amazing drug but one must weigh the pros and cons of its use. Having the conversation with your self and your doctor are important steps to take on your PrEP journey. Never hesitate to be in contact with your health community.
As more PrEP medicines improve, you will see less side effects and eventually injectable PrEP drugs may be on the market faster than you think. Imagine going into the doctor's office for a quick shot every three months instead of taking a pill every day.
At what age were you diagnosed with HIV?