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What's Descovy, and does it work as PrEP?




What is Descovy?

Descovy and Truvada are both anti-retrovirals HIV medications. Truvada has been used to prevent HIV as PrEP since it was approved in 2012, and Descovy has recently approved by the U.S. FDA for use as PrEP.

What’s the difference?

Descovy and Truvada are both a single pill made up of two drugs, emtracitabine and tenofovir. In Descovy, the tenofovir is slightly different (referred to as TAF vs the TDF in Truvada). TAF works well even when there is less of it, so Descovy has less tenofovir. This may offer a number of benefits like reduced side effects, and get into the body quicker.


Does it work as well as Truvada?

Descovy has been shown to be just as effective as Truvada as PrEP for cisgender men and transgender women. It’s not currently recommended for trans men or cisgender women because we don’t have any evidence.

Unfortunately, neither trans men or cisgender women were included in the Descovy PrEP trials. We don’t think this is nearly good enough.

Is Descovy Better than Truvada?

Given Truvada already works amazingly well for preventing HIV - for most folks it’s hardly going to be much of a difference. However, if you are unable to take Truvada is PrEP due to side effects, or you have concerns about starting PrEP due to renal (kidney) function issues - have a chat with your doctor.

What’s the evidence for Descovy?

The DISCOVER trial is a study where over 5,000 cisgender men who have sex with men (and some transgender women) took either Descovy or Truvada to study if Descovy could be used as PrEP. The study found that Descovy was non-inferior (just as effective as) Truvada at preventing HIV in those people.

Is it legit?

Truvada has been approved for uses as PrEP in the U.S. since 2012. It was also approved for use in Australia, and then made available on the PBS in 2018.

In 2019, the FDA approved Descovy for use as PrEP in the U.S. Descovy still isn’t approved or subsidised in Australia. However, it is possible to import the medication from overseas with a prescription- which is perfectly legal.

Can I start using Descovy?

Thats up to you and your doctor. If you decide to start using Descovy as PrEP have a chat with your PrEP doctor. They will need to do all the regular blood and STI testing - and provide you a prescription.

Note: Even good PrEP doctors may not be up to speed with Descovy, or be comfortable prescribing it “off label” in this way. We recommend finding a PrEP prescriber who is also an S100 prescriber (A HIV specialist).

How can I get it?

Descovy for PrEP can’t be purchased locally in Australia on our public health system. You can buy it “off label” from the pharmacy in Australia if you have a spare $770 per month. If you decide to start Descovy and have a prescription you will need to personally import the drug. You can do that from many reputable online pharmacies.

Want more info?

If you’re already on PrEP, a great person to talk to about Descovy is your doctor!

Check out Melbourne gay doctor, HIV specialist, and all round good guy Dr. George Forgan-Smith discuss Descovy as PrEP on his blog Is PrEP For Me for info from a doctor.

In the meantime, If you’ve got concerns or questions about taking Descovy as PrEP feel free to get in touch with us by email


- - - - - - - - - - Got feedback? Got a question that we haven’t covered? We’d love to hear it!

Just e-mail info@pan.org.au with your question or comment, and please include the question title you’re writing about and be as detailed and specific as you can with your comments.

If possible, please provide links to any relevant sources. - - - - - - - - - -



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