What Are the Side Effects of PrEP?

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) meds are pills used by people who face a high risk of contracting the human immunodeficiency virus. These pills work to prevent the virus from infiltrating and spreading through the body system. However, PrEP drugs could have some adverse effects or reactions on some of its users. Find out more about the side effects of these medications in the article below.

Research findings show that people who take PrEP pills for an entire week (7 days) and continue in this manner can achieve the 99% protection from HIV level [1]. However, for this to be achieved, the pills need to be taken exactly as prescribed. Failure to follow prescription (i.e. missing doses) may result in a decrease in the level of protection that should normally be achieved.

One of the issues that users are worried about is side effects. Although the majority of PrEP users do not experience adverse reactions to the meds, a tiny fraction has observed and given reports of some adverse effects which occurred during the course of usage.

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🔍Basic Info About PrEP Medication Side Effects

Like any other medicine, PrEP drugs could have an adverse reaction on its users. People have different body systems and thus, somebody systems may react temporarily to the drug. The reactions may be very mild or severe (on very rare occasions).

Potential side effects that may result from the use of PrEP meds are usually short-lived and are noticed during the first two weeks of commencing the procedure. These side effects are not permanent and often fade away once the user’s body system adjusts to the pill. Clinical trials reveal that the major side effect observed by users was nausea. Only a tiny fraction of users who experienced side effects found them severe/ crucial enough to stop taking the drug.

Side effects that may result from PrEP could either be short-term or long-term. However, cases of long-term side effects do not occur frequently.

It is important to note that only a small percentage of users of the PrEP pills often experience short-term side effects and an even smaller percentage experience the long-term effects. Similarly, the side effects of PrEP medications do not usually have any physical manifestation.

🕒Short-Term Adverse Reactions

As stated earlier, the side effects of pre-exposure prophylaxis meds are mostly short-term. What this implies is that these adverse reactions are usually noticed within the early weeks of usage and fade away quickly once the body system has adjusted to them.

Some of the common short-term side effects of PrEP medicines include [2]:

  • headaches: A number of PrEP users often experience mild or severe headaches within the first or second week of using the drugs. However, these bouts of headaches are temporary and do not last for long;
  • nausea: This is one of the more frequent side effects of PrEP drugs. Some users of PrEP medicines observed mild or severe nausea. In some cases, general stomach discomfort was observed and reported;
  • dizziness: Some people who are newly introduced to the meds experience mild or extreme dizziness. However, this side effect fades within a matter of days or a week;
  • fatigue: A small percentage of PrEP users equally experience fatigue or tiredness within the early period of usage;
  • diarrhea: Some users of PrEP pills may also experience mild or moderate cases of diarrhea after taking the tablets.

Contrary to popular belief, pre-exposure prophylaxis drugs do not cause any substantial alteration in body fat or raise lipid levels. This was confirmed through clinical trials carried out [3].

It is important to note that these side effects are completely normal and only last for as long as the body adjusts to the medication.

📅Long-Term Consequences from Taking HIV Prevention Tablets

Side effects of anti-HIV drugs that take place for the long-term are quite rare and uncommon. However, there have been a few cases where some users observed some long-term adverse reactions. These long-term side effects are often noticed after an extended period of usage and may take a long while to be reversed.

Some long-term PrEP pills side effects which may be observed include:

  • liver problems: PrEP meds could affect the functions of the liver after an extended period of usage. Users may notice a change in the color of urine and a yellowing of the skin and eyes. However, this side effect is very rare and uncommon;
  • kidney problems: In some cases, prophylaxis meds could cause an impact on the functions of the kidney. Hence, doctors and health care providers usually examine the state of one’s kidney before prescribing PrEP medicines. If you have an existing kidney problem, it is advisable to consult your healthcare provider before starting PrEP treatment;
  • a decrease in bone density: A few numbers of people have reported experiencing a loss of bone density after commencing treatment with PrEP drugs. Generally, findings show that this medicine could lead to a slight thinning or reduction of bone density by 1-2%. This may result in an increased risk of getting a bone fracture.

These long-term adverse reactions to PrEP medications are not common. Although one may experience them, they are reversible. Experts suggest that bone density, liver and kidney function usually return to normal after one stops using the drug.

👨‍⚕️Bad Side Effects from PrEP Pills – What Should You Do?

PrEP medicines could be mild or severe, depending on the physiology of the user. A greater number of individuals who experience severe side effects tend to discontinue the treatment completely.

However, if one observes severe side effects, it is best to seek expert advice from medical professionals before attempting self-medication or taking actions of any sort. A professional health provider would not only help to pinpoint the exact problem but equally offer consultation services on whether you need to stop the medications or not.

If you are looking to get more information about PrEP such as its effectiveness, where to get it, user experiences, or have access to frequently asked questions and answers, you can visit HIVPrEP.


  1. Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. Retrieved 21 May 2018. HIV.gov
  2. PrEP. Roger Pebody. Retrieved July 2015.
  3. PrEP does not raise lipids or alter body fat, safety study finds. Keith Alcorn. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
Logan Morris

Expert in pharmaceutical practice and antiviral medicine, founder of HIVPrEP. Main goal is to popularize HIV topics and create awareness for global masses on how to prevent the disease and how to use HIV medication safely.

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