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How Tenofovir Works and What to Tell Your Doctor

What Should I Tell My Healthcare Provider Before Taking It?

You should talk with your healthcare provider prior to taking tenofovir if you have:
 
  • Kidney disease, including kidney failure (renal failure)
  • Liver disease, such as liver failure or cirrhosis
  • Osteoporosis or other bone problems
  • Anemia, neutropenia, or any other low blood count or blood disorder
  • Any allergies, including allergies to food, dyes, or preservatives.
     
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you are:
 
Make sure to tell your healthcare provider about all other medicines you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
 
(Click Precautions and Warnings With Tenofovir to learn more, including information on who should not take the drug.)
 

How Does Tenofovir Work?

Tenofovir is currently the only medication in a class of HIV medications known as nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NtRTIs). It is similar to medications in another class, nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). Tenofovir works by blocking a process that the HIV virus needs in order to multiply.
 
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS. Like other viruses, it must use a person's own cells to reproduce. However, HIV is a little different from other viruses because it must first convert its genetic material from RNA to DNA. It is the DNA genes that allow HIV to multiply.
 
HIV converts its genetic material by using a special protein called the reverse transcriptase enzyme. To create DNA, this enzyme uses several different molecular building-blocks.
 
Tenofovir works by tricking reverse transcriptase into thinking it is one of these molecular building-blocks. However, it is just different enough that when used to create DNA, tenofovir actually stops the DNA from being made. Without DNA, HIV cannot multiply.
 
Tenofovir is not a cure for HIV or AIDS, however. It can help stop HIV from infecting healthy cells in the body, but it does not help cells that have already been infected with the virus.
 
This medication works similarly for treating chronic hepatitis B, except instead of inhibiting reverse transcriptase, it inhibits an enzyme known as HBV polymerase (a similar enzyme that helps to build DNA).
 

Tenofovir HIV Medication

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