Just*in Time: August 2016

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[dropcap]H[/dropcap]ope you’re doing well! Got a question you might know the answer to….So I’m negative and on Truvada as PrEP, but my boyfriend finally got on what I thought his doctor prescribed him, Truvada, but instead was Emtriva. Now I’ve done my homework and before I get out of sorts: Is Emtriva equal or effectively the same as Truvada? Just thought you might know more than me, who specializes in sales and not health. Any help would be appreciated.
—JCrew

Photo by Don Harris © Don Harris Photographics, LLC. All rights reserved.
Photo by Don Harris © Don Harris Photographics, LLC. All rights reserved.

[dropcap]F[/dropcap]irst, let me commend you on taking control of your own health. By being on Truvada you are protecting yourself, as you know. Many people do not want to go on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) because they prefer condoms only. This certainly has been a subject of contention in the HIV activist community.

Okay, let us address the issue. First, let me explain that Emtriva is utilized with other HIV medications to help suppress HIV infection in the body. It allows your immune system to work better while being infected with HIV. Emtriva also lowers the chances of an individual who is infected with HIV of getting opportunistic infections, such as a cancer-causing infection. It also reduces the risk of HIV transmission. Truvada is made up of two medications, tenofovir (Viread) and emtricitabine (Emtriva).

Honestly, I think you really need to talk to your boyfriend. Open communication is where you are going to find your answer. If you are not sure about why he is taking the medication you need to ask him. I’m not a doctor, but maybe you should consult one so that you know the facts. I do know that being honest allows for couples to be able to share information that they may have been apprehensive to share if there is no open communication. I would suggest sitting down with him and making sure that you do not sound judgmental when asking about the medication. I always ask when is the last time a person has had their last HIV test because I personally don’t want to run the risk of transmitting the virus to them.

The second issue would be to question why the doctor didn’t prescribe him Truvada. There could be a very good reason why his doctor paired Emtriva with something other than Viread. But I raise this issue because a lot of doctors will prescribe the same preventative or HIV medications to the couple in a relationship. Sometimes being on the same meds can also be a lot easier for the couple. Partner A and Partner B are in a relationship with each other; Partner A and B are both on Truvada. If Partner A runs out of Truvada, he can always ask Partner B if he can use his medication until his prescription of Truvada comes in. I’m not saying this is the right way to do things, but I know it does happen in real life. One would have to be very cautious to make using another person’s prescription a standard practice. Importantly, one should never just prescribe oneself Truvada as PrEP. Consult a doctor before just taking PrEP out of the blue. The same goes for HIV medications. If Partner A is taking Complera and Partner B is taking Triumeq they should not mix up their drugs because Complera and Triumeq have their differences, even though both of the medications are dosed at one-pill-a-day to suppress HIV. Consult your doctor before switching medication with your partner. The reason why I advise not to do this is because everyone’s body handles different HIV medications differently. Meaning, I’m on Complera because I consulted my doctor and my body has been doing well with it from the very beginning. If I lost my pills or ran out of Complera I wouldn’t want to try to take another HIV medication to compensate. The reason why is because I don’t know how my body will react to that certain medication.

My advice is not to tell you what to do, but to give you options on what to do or tell you what I would do. I leave it in your hands to make the right decision for yourself. Do a little bit more research.


Justin B. Terry-Smith, MPH, has been fighting the good fight since 1999. He’s garnered recognition and awards for his work, but he’s more concerned about looking for new ways to transform society for the better than resting on his laurels. He started up in gay rights and HIV activism in 2005, published an HIV-themed children’s book, I Have A Secret (Creative House Press) in 2011, and created his own award-winning video blog called, “Justin’s HIV Journal”: justinshivjournal.blogspot.com. Presently, he is working toward his doctorate in public health. Visit his main Web site at www.justinbsmith.com. He welcomes your questions at [email protected].

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