If you’re considering options to either treat or prevent HIV, your doctor may recommend Descovy. It’s a prescription drug that’s used to treat HIV and prevent HIV in certain people. Using Descovy for HIV prevention is called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

Descovy is prescribed for adults and some children. To learn more about HIV and how Descovy is used for it, see the “Is Descovy used for PrEP?” and “Is Descovy used for HIV?” sections below.

Descovy has two active drugs in it. emtricitabine and tenofovir alafenamide are active ingredients. You can take Descovy tablets by mouth.

Descovy isn’t available in a generic form. Instead, it only comes as the brand-name drug.

Read on to learn about the uses and side effects of Descovy.

Your doctor may prescribe Descovy for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) of HIV. For PrEP, you’ll take the drug before you’ve been exposed to HIV. If you don’t have HIV but you’re at risk for contracting it, taking Descovy can reduce your risk of getting HIV.

HIV is a virus that affects your immune system. It damages certain cells and prevents your body from fighting off infections.

There are a few ways in which HIV can be passed. Sharing needles with someone who has HIV is one of these.

Adults and adolescents weighing at least 35 kilograms are prescribed descovy. It should not be used by females who are at risk for getting HIV from vaginal sex.

“Descovy blocks HIV from entering your body’s cells and making copies of itself, which reduces your risk of contracting HIV.”

Descovy is also approved to treat HIV in certain people. For more information about this, see the “Is Descovy used for HIV?” section directly below.

* The term “adolescent” is used to describe children ages 12 years and older.
† In this article, we use the term “female” to refer to someone’s sex assigned at birth. For information about the difference between sex and gender, see this article.

Your doctor may prescribe Descovy to treat HIV, which is a virus that affects your immune system.

HIV damages certain cells and prevents your body from fighting off infections. If you’re taking Descovy to treat HIV, you’ll take it with other medications called antiretrovirals.

More than one medication is needed to treat HIV. An HIV regimen is a treatment for HIV. A regimen contains two to three HIV medications. A drug class is a group of drugs that work in the same way. Descovy is used in an HIV regimen.

Descovy is used to treat HIV in combination with other drugs. Children who weigh at least 35 kilograms can take Descovy.

Children weighing at least 14 kg (about 31 lb) and less than 35 kg may also take Descovy. But doctors must prescribe another HIV medication that is not a protease inhibitor. (Protease inhibitors are a kind of HIV medication that acts different than Descovy.)

“Descovy blocks HIV from making copies of itself in your body. HIV drugs don’t cure HIV because they don’t lower the number of HIV copies. Treatments can help reduce the spread of HIV to other people.”

Descovy is also approved to prevent HIV in certain people. For more information about this, see the “Is Descovy used for PrEP?” section directly above.

Your doctor will tell you the right amount of Descovy for you. Always take the dosages your doctor prescribes.

Form

You can take Descovy by mouth.

Recommended dosages

For pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), you’ll likely take one Descovy tablet once daily.

For HIV treatment, you’ll also take one Descovy tablet once daily. With Descovy, you’ll take other HIV medications, too.

For information about how Descovy is used for PrEP and The treatment of HIV., see the sections above called “Is Descovy used for PrEP?” and “Is Descovy used for HIV?

Questions about Descovy’s dosage

There are many questions about Descovy.

  • What if I miss a dose of Descovy? It’s important to take Descovy every day on a regular schedule. Missing a dose can affect how well Descovy works. If you miss a dose of Descovy, take it as soon as you remember. Then, take your next dose at the usual time. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you’re unsure when to take Descovy after you’ve missed a dose.
  • Will I need to use Descovy long term?
    • If you are taking Descovy for The treatment of HIV. and it is working well for you, you need to take it for a long time. Talk to your doctor about how long you will need to take Descovy.
    • If you are taking Descovy forPrEP, your doctor may tell you when to stop. If you test positive for HIV, you need to stop taking Descovy. Descovy should not be stopped without talking to your doctor.
  • How long does Descovy take to work? Descovy works quickly to reduce the amount of HIV in your body.
    • If you are taking Descovy for The treatment of HIV., your doctor may test you for HIV in 2 to 8 weeks. Most people had reduced their HIV levels after receiving treatment.
    • If you’re taking Descovy for PrEP (to prevent HIV), your doctor may test you for HIV after 4 weeks. This will likely happen if you had a recent exposure to HIV or have symptoms of acute HIV. Otherwise, you should be tested for HIV at least once every 3 months while taking Descovy. If you’re taking Descovy as prescribed and following HIV-prevention measures, the drug acts quickly to prevent HIV.

“Your doctor will explain how to take Descovy. They will explain how much to take and how often. Follow your doctor’s instructions.”

Taking Descovy

You can take Descovy by mouth.

Taking Descovy with other drugs

If you are taking Descovy for The treatment of HIV., you will take it with other HIV medications.

More than one medication is needed to treat HIV. An HIV regimen is a treatment for HIV. A regimen contains two to three HIV medications. A drug class is a group of drugs that work in the same way. Descovy is used in an HIV regimen.

For example, in an The treatment of HIV. regimen, people can take Descovy with either:

  • Dolutegravir is a type ofgravir.
  • Both darunavir and cobicistat are used for treating HIV.
  • raltegravir (Isentress)
  • Doravirine is from Piedmont.
  • The word “Sustiva” is derived from the Greek word for “efficirenz.”
  • rilpivirine is a drug.
  • Atazanavir and cobicistat are used for treating HIV.

If you are taking Descovy for pre-exposure prophylactics, you will probably take it without other HIV drugs.

Questions about taking Descovy

There are answers to some questions about taking Descovy.

  • Can Descovy be chewed, crushed, or split? It’s unknown whether you can chew, crush, or split Descovy tablets. If you have trouble swallowing pills, talk with your pharmacist. They can suggest safe ways to take Descovy.
  • Should I take Descovy with food? You can take Descovy with or without food.

You may have questions about Descovy. Discuss your concerns with your doctor.

Here are a few tips that might help you.

  • Before your appointment, write down questions like:
    • How will Descovy affect me?
  • Bring someone with you to your appointment to make you feel more comfortable.
  • “If you don’t understand something, ask your doctor to explain it.”

“Your doctor and other healthcare professionals are here to help you. They want you to get the best care possible. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or give feedback on your treatment.”

Descovy may cause mild or serious side effects. Some of the more common side effects of Descovy are described in the lists below. All possible side effects are not included in these lists.

The doctor or the pharmacy can tell you more about the side effects of Descovy. They can suggest ways to reduce side effects.

Mild side effects

Here’s a short list of some of the mild side effects that Descovy can cause. To learn about other mild side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist, or read Descovy’s prescribing information.

Mild side effects of Descovy can be included.

Many drugs can have mild side effects that go away in a few days or weeks. If they become intolerable, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

The side effect focus section gives more information about this side effect.

Serious side effects

Descovy can have serious side effects, but they are not common. If you have serious side effects from Descovy, you should call your doctor. If you think you have a medical emergency, you should call the emergency number.

Serious side effects can be serious.

The side effect focus section can be found below.

Side effect focus

Some of the side effects of Descovy may be discussed.

Boxed warnings

Descovy has boxed warnings about severe worsening of hepatitis B and HIV resistance. Boxed warnings are serious warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The drug has a boxed warning.

  • Severe worsening of hepatitis B. Some people may have severe worsening of hepatitis B with Descovy. This happens in people who already have hepatitis B. And it’s been seen in some people who’ve stopped taking Descovy.
  • HIV resistance. People taking Descovy to help prevent HIV, but who have undetected HIV, may develop HIV resistance to one or both of Descovy’s active drugs. When HIV becomes resistant to one or both of Descovy’s active drugs, the medication no longer works as well to treat HIV.

What can help?

If you have a disease, you should let your doctor know.

If you have the disease, stopping Descovy can make it worse. After you stop taking Descovy, your doctor will order blood tests to check your health. People need to take drugs to treat hepatitis after stopping Descovy.

If you notice any new symptoms after stopping Descovy, talk to your doctor.

Descovy is a medication that your doctor will prescribe if you have HIV. The virus can be more difficult to control if you only take Descovy to treat HIV.

If you need to take other drugs with Descovy, talk to your doctor.

Nausea

In studies, nausea was the most common side effect reported by adults and children with HIV who took Descovy. It’s possible that some severe side effects of Descovy, such as There is damage to the liver., may also cause nausea.

“If you don’t know if your nausea is a symptom of a more serious side effect, talk to your doctor.”

What can help?

Don’t stop taking Descovy if you have nausea. Instead, talk with your doctor before stopping any HIV medication. Your doctor or pharmacist may recommend that you take another drug to reduce your nausea. But before taking any over-the-counter (OTC) nausea medication, talk with your doctor.

Your doctor may suggest changing your diet to help ease your nausea. Choosing low fat, low fiber foods may help. Eating frequent, small meals can also help you feel better.

Diarrhea

You may experience frequent watery stools while taking Descovy. In studies, diarrhea was the most common side effect reported in people who took Descovy to prevent HIV.

It’s possible that diarrhea may cause you to become dehydrated. With dehydration, you have low levels of fluid and electrolytes in your body. If you become dehydrated because of diarrhea, you may have:

  • Increased thirst.
  • dizziness
  • Less urine is produced or urinated less often.
  • Mood changes.

If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor.

What can help?

Some OTC medications can help with scurvy. Before taking any drugs with Descovy, be sure to talk with your doctor.

Certain foods may help ease diarrhea. For example, the BRAT diet, which consists of bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast, may help. Avoiding dairy is another way to help ease diarrhea.

If you feel dehydrated from diarrhea, you’ll need to replenish lost fluids. Drinking diluted juice or electrolyte drinks can help prevent dehydration from diarrhea.

If your scurvy gets worse, you should talk to your doctor.

Fatigue

You might feel fatigued (have a lack of energy) when you’re taking Descovy. Fatigue can also happen when your body is trying to fight off HIV, which Descovy is used to treat.

Descovy may cause fatigue. These include:

  • Immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome is a reaction of your immune system to infections inside your body.
  • The kidneys fail.
  • lactic acidosis (increased acid level in your body)

If you are unsure of why you are tired, or if your fatigue is getting worse, talk to your doctor.

What can help?

Serious side effects can sometimes cause fatigue. Talk with your doctor if your fatigue is affecting your quality of life. They can help determine what’s causing this symptom. And they may be able to suggest ways to help increase your energy level.

Allergic reaction

Clinical studies of Descovy did not includeAllergic reaction. Some people may still be affected by the drug.

A mild allergic reaction can include some symptoms.

A more severe allergic reaction is not uncommon. There are symptoms of a severe allergic reaction.

“It’s swelling under your skin, usually in your lips, hands, or feet. They can include swelling of your mouth, throat, and tongue, which can cause trouble breathing.”

If you have an allergic reaction to Descovy, call your doctor. If you think you have a medical emergency, call the emergency number.

Descovy and Truvada are HIV medications that contain similar active drugs. Both Descovy and Truvada contain emtricitabine. But in addition, Descovy contains tenofovir alafenamide, and Truvada contains tenofovir disoproxil fumarate.

Descovy and Truvada may be prescribed.

It is possible to have more side effects with Truvada. Tenofovir alafenamide causes fewer problems than tenofovir disoproxil fumarate.

“Truvada can lower fat levels in the blood and it might be a preferred treatment. Truvada is approved for use in females who are at risk of getting HIV from vaginal sex. Descovy isn’t approved forPrEP in that case”

If you have more questions about the differences between Descovy and Truvada, you should talk to your doctor.

* In this article, we use the term “female” to refer to someone’s sex assigned at birth. For information about the difference between sex and gender, see this article.

Find out what the answers are to some questions.

Does Descovy cause weight gain?

Weight gain isn’t a known side effect of Descovy. It’s not clear if Descovy causes changes in body weight. But people taking Descovy for HIV treatment may have changes in weight that are caused by other HIV drugs they’re taking.

If you have concerns about your weight, talk to your doctor.

How does Descovy work?

Descovy contains two medications that are nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). This type of HIV medication blocks HIV from making copies of itself inside your body’s cells. Without the ability to make copies of itself, HIV stops spreading inside your body.

HIV attacks the cells of your immune system. Your immune system can fight off HIV if there are fewer copies in your body.

Descovy stops the virus from entering your immune system if you are taking it to prevent HIV.

Before taking Descovy, you should have a discussion with your doctor about your health and any medications you are taking. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your doctor.

Interactions

Taking a drug can affect how it works. These effects are called interactions.

Before taking Descovy, you should tell your doctor about all your medication. You should also describe any vitamins, herbs, or supplements you use. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you about any interactions that may occur.

Interactions with drugs or supplements

Descovy can interact with drugs. Descovy contains two active drugs that can cause interactions with other drugs.

One of the active drugs in Descovy is tenofovir. These drugs are used.

“Drugs that clear your body through your body’s excretion can affect how Descovy is cleared. The drugs include the antivirals.”

Some drugs that may interact with Descovy are not on the lists. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you more about the interactions that may occur with Descovy.

Boxed warnings

Descovy has boxed warnings about severe worsening of hepatitis B and HIV resistance. Boxed warnings are serious warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Severe worsening of hepatitis B. Some people may have severe worsening of hepatitis B with Descovy. This happens in people who already have hepatitis B. And it’s been seen in some people who’ve stopped taking Descovy.

HIV resistance. People taking Descovy to help prevent HIV, but who have undetected HIV, may develop HIV resistance to one or both of Descovy’s active drugs. When HIV becomes resistant to one or both of Descovy’s active drugs, the medication no longer works as well to treat HIV.

For more information about these warnings, see the “What are Descovy’s side effects?” section above.

Other warnings

If you have a medical condition that affects your health, Descovy may not be right for you. Before you take Descovy, talk to your doctor about your health history. The factors to consider are listed below.

  • Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Descovy or any of its ingredients, you shouldn’t take Descovy. Ask your doctor what other medications are better options for you.
  • Immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS). An infection that’s already in your body or that was treated in the past can worsen or come back when HIV medications are started. This condition is called IRIS. Before starting Descovy, be sure to let your doctor know about any infections you have or have had in the past.

Use with alcohol

Descovy isn’t known to interact with alcohol. But researchers suggest that alcohol use is common in people with HIV. And unhealthy alcohol use can increase your risk for getting HIV.

If you drink too much alcohol, you may be unable to take your HIV medications properly.

People with HIV should limit their alcohol use. People at risk for HIV should limit their alcohol consumption.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

During a pregnant woman can be taken scovy. If you are pregnant, you should tell your doctor. If you become pregnant while taking Descovy, tell your doctor. If you are using Descovy during your pregnancies, your doctor may want to watch you more closely.

If you use Descovy during pregnancy, consider enrolling in the drug’s pregnancy registry. This registry keeps track of reported pregnancy issues with Descovy. It is called the Antiretroviral Pregnancy Registry (APR).

“Call 800 258-4263 if you want to enroll in the registry and report Descovy’s effects on pregnant women.”

In the United States, doctors don’t recommend breastfeeding in people with HIV. This is because HIV can be passed to a child who’s breastfed.

“If you are taking Descovy to treat HIV, your doctor will probably recommend that you don’t breastfeeding. Descovy isn’t recommended to prevent HIV in females at risk for getting HIV from vaginal sex.”

It is not known if Descovy affects breast milk or a child who is breastfed.

* In this article, we use the term “female” to refer to someone’s sex assigned at birth. For information about the difference between sex and gender, see this article.

There are many factors that affect the cost of prescription drugs. What your insurance plan covers is one of the factors.

If you have questions about how to pay for your prescription, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. You can also visit the Descovy manufacturer’s website to see if they have support options.

Do not take more than your doctor prescribes. Side effects can be serious if you use more than this. If you take too much Descovy, your doctor may watch you for signs of overdose.

What to do in case you take too much Descovy

Call your doctor if you think you’ve taken too much Descovy. You can also call 800-222-1222 to reach the American Association of Poison Control Centers or use its online resource. However, if you have severe symptoms, immediately call 911 (or your local emergency number) or go to the nearest emergency room.

If you have questions about taking Descovy, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Your doctor can tell you about other treatments. Here are some articles that you might find useful.

Ask your doctor questions about Descovy.

  • Is Descovy better than Truvada in preventing HIV?
  • When can I stop taking Descovy?
  • Is it possible to drink alcohol while taking Descovy?
  • Which natural products can I use to boost my immune system?

You can learn more about health conditions, such as HIV, by subscribing to one of Healthline’s newsletters.

Q:

Is it possible to prevent HIV if I have vaginal sex?

Anonymous patient

A:

Descovy is not recommended for females at risk for getting HIV from vaginal sex. This group of people have not been studied about its effectiveness. If you have vaginal sex and want to prevent HIV, you should talk to your doctor or pharmacist. They can tell you more about Descovy and other prevention options.

Melissa Badowski, PharmD, MPH, FCCPAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

* In this article, we use the term “female” to refer to someone’s sex assigned at birth. For information about the difference between sex and gender, see this article.

Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.