A preventative medication to protect British Columbians who are at a high risk of HIV infection will soon be made free, following activists and doctors calling on the government to subsidize the drug.
Effective Jan. 1, pre-exposure prophylaxis – also known as PrEP – will be available at no cost through the BC Centre for Excellence’s HIV Drug Treatment program, which is funded by the Ministry of Health through the B.C. PharmaCare program.
Daily use of the oral antiretroviral medication is recommended by the World Health Organization and the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS as an effective method to prevent HIV in people at risk of infection, the province said in a statement Thursday.
In an open letter to the province published in August, B.C. doctors and public health groups including AIDS Vancouver Island and Living Positive Resource Centre called on Premier John Horgan to begin funding the drug.
“As organizations that serve vulnerable populations, we know that PrEP works and that stigma around talking about sex, HIV, and being gay is a continued barrier to reducing HIV diagnoses. We know more than ever about how to treat this virus and how to prevent it,” the letter read.
In addition to funding PrEP, the province is also expanding the existing PEP program to include coverage for non-occupational exposure, so those who are exposed to HIV have immediate access in order to prevent a new infection.
More to come.