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Truvada vs. Descovy for PrEP: What's the Difference?

  • Category: Sexual Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Apicha Community Health Center

Last Updated on October 24, 2023

While many think the medication for HIV prevention is PrEP, that isn't true. PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is the method in which HIV is prevented. The two PrEP medications available today are Truvada and Descovy. And while both medications prevent HIV there are some differences between the two. In this blog, we're going to explore those differences, as well as their similarities.

First Came Truvada:

Truvada was approved by the FDA in 2012 as an HIV prevention method and treatment. It is a combination of emtricitabine and tenofovir. It is a blue pill taken daily. Side effects are limited, and when taken correctly and every day, PrEP is 92-99% effective in reducing the risk of HIV. Since its approval, over 380,000 people across the globe are on PrEP, with numbers growing everyday.

Then Came Descovy:

Descovy is a newer PrEP medication and was approved in 2019. It is the second and only other PrEP medication available. It is a combination of emtricitabine and tenofovir alafenamide. Descovy is also a blue pill that is taken daily, and is proven to be 92-99% effective in reducing the risk of HIV.

So, if both medications are for PrEP and HIV prevention, could they really be different?

Similarities Between Descovy and Truvada:

First, let's go over how the two medications are similar:

  • Used for PrEP and HIV prevention
  • A pill taken daily
  • Extremely effective
  • Overall low rates of side effects
  • Cost about the same
  • Are likely to be covered by insurance

Differences Between Descovy and Truvada:

While the two share some important similarities, there are a few differences:

  • Truvada is a combination of emtricitabine and tenofovir. Descovy is a combination of emtricitabine and tenofovir alafenamide.
  • Truvada can be used by anyone who is at risk for HIV. Descovy is only recommended for individuals assigned male at birth and transgender women.
  • People with kidney issues or a family history of kidney problems may want to avoid Truvada. However, Descovy is safer for those with kidney issues.
  • Truvada may caused some weight loss. Descovy may cause some weight gain.
  • Truvada may cause decrease cholesterol levels. Descovy may cause increased cholesterol levels.
  • The Truvada pill is slightly larger than the Descovy pill.

How to Choose Which is Best for You:

As always, you should speak to your medical provider about which PrEP medication is best for you. If you're in need of PrEP and/or a primary care provider, Apicha CHC can help. You can schedule an appointment to get PrEP here.

Our healthcare providers are specialists in HIV prevention, treatment, and care. If you come for testing and remain for care at our community health center, you will receive consistent treatment from a healthcare provider who can attend to all of your health needs including HIV. And your treatment can evolve with your changing lifestyle. PrEP medication is now available in an injectable treatment. If you can't remember to take a daily pill, ask us about injectable PrEP, a shot taken every other month.

There are 3 ways we can help:

1. HIV Testing
We provide completely confidential HIV testing services at Apicha CHC. To sign up for our HIV Testing services, click here and select HIV/STD testing from the drop down.

2. We can get you PrEP
If you become part of Apicha CHC's PrEP Program, you will be assigned a medical provider at Apicha CHC who will assess whether PrEP is right for you and will prescribe you Truvada as PrEP.

Our PrEP staff can also help you:

  • Enroll in insurance or sign you up for special PrEP cost programs
  • Set up your appointments
  • Remind you when your pills are running out
  • You can easily pick-up your prescription at Apicha CHC's in-house pharmacy or you can use our free delivery service!

3. Become a part of our HIV Clinic
If you know you're HIV-positive and don't currently have a medical provider or aren't happy with the one you do have, feel free to become a part of the Apicha CHC family.

You can request an appointment. Be sure to select appointment type as "Primary Medical Care."