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Last updated December 27, 2019. 3 minute read

Can I take Viagra with antiretrovirals (ARVs) for HIV?

ARVs (antiretroviral drugs) are an HIV treatment. They’re prescribed to keep levels of HIV in the blood low. ARVs may affect the concentration of Viagra the body is able to absorb, or heighten some common side effects of Viagra.

Self Written by Michael Martin
Reviewed by Dr. Mike Bohl, MD, MPH

Viagra (sildenafil) is an oral medication that treats erectile dysfunction (ED).

Viagra (sildenafil), Cialis (tadalafil), Levitra (vardenafil), and Stendra (avanafil) are part of a family of drugs called PDE-5 inhibitors. PDE-5 (phosphodiesterase type-5) is an enzyme that breaks down a molecule called cGMP, resulting in the narrowing of blood vessels.

When PDE-5 is inhibited, elevated levels of cGMP dilates blood vessels, enhancing blood flow to the penis.

Vitals

  • Yes—but certain ARVs may have interactions with Viagra.
  • Viagra is an oral medication that treats erectile dysfunction (ED).
  • ARVs (antiretroviral drugs) are an HIV treatment. They’re prescribed to keep levels of HIV in the blood low.
  • ARVs may affect the concentration of Viagra the body is able to absorb, or heighten some common side effects of Viagra.

Viagra and ARVs

Viagra is generally safe to take with ARVs. However, problems can occur for patients taking certain HIV medications.

To avoid potentially dangerous drug interactions, it’s always important to tell your healthcare provider what medications you’re currently taking, including prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

It’s especially important to tell your healthcare provider if you’re taking any of the following HIV medications:

  • Delavirdine (Rescriptor), amprenavir (Agenerase), indinavir (Crixivan), ritonavir (Norvir), saquinavir (Fortovase, Invirase), elvitegravir/cobicistat/TDF/FTC) (Stribild). These ARVs have the potential to significantly increase the concentration of Viagra in your body. Your healthcare provider may decrease your Viagra dosage and/or recommend that you only take Viagra every other day.
  • Etravirine (Intelence), efavirenz (Sustiva), and nevirapine (Viramune) may decrease the concentration of Viagra in the body, so your healthcare provider may adjust your dose depending on how effective Viagra is for you.

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What are ARVs?

ARVs are antiretroviral drugs. HIV is a type of virus known as a retrovirus. ARVs work to keep levels of HIV in the blood (viral load) low by stopping or slowing HIV’s normal cycle.

ARVs may affect the concentration of Viagra the body is able to absorb. They might also increase the likelihood of common Viagra side effects such as headache and flushing.

Your healthcare provider may recommend that you take a lower dosage of Viagra or use it less frequently.

If you’re taking ARVs, talk to your healthcare provider about how Viagra may affect you. Always follow your healthcare provider’s dosing instructions. Viagra isn’t safe for everyone; individuals on nitrates or riociguat cannot take Viagra. Individuals on certain drugs, like ARVs, or who have certain health conditions, like liver or kidney disease, may need a smaller dose to take Viagra safely. To learn more, see important safety information about Viagra.

Potential side effects of Viagra

Common side effects of Viagra include dizziness, headache, flushing, upset stomach or indigestion, increased sensitivity to light, blurred vision, “blue-tinted” vision, a stuffy or runny nose, back pain, insomnia, rash, and muscle pain.

Less common side effects of Viagra include priapism (a prolonged erection that won’t go away), heart attack-like symptoms, eye problems such as sudden vision loss, ringing in ears or hearing loss, seizures, or swelling in the extremities. (If you experience any of those, seek medical advice right away).

Read more about Viagra’s potential side effects, and everything you’ve ever wanted to know about erectile dysfunction here