The lowdown on the pill that's helping prevent HIV before it starts (BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS)
In the last 30 years, the HIV pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 35 million people. Now, thanks to global efforts to reduce deaths and prevent new infections, it seems like an HIV-free future might come sooner than anyone expected. In 2014, UNAIDS embarked on a strategy to eradicate HIV by 2030, an achievement that seems almost unthinkable twenty years ago, when deaths from the virus were at their peak.
One of the most exciting developments in the fight against HIV is pre-exposure prophylaxis, aka PrEP for short. Approved by Health Canada in 2016, PrEP isn't a new invention, but an innovative approach to preventing the spread of the virus using existing medication. Simply put, PrEP is the daily use of the anti-HIV drug Truvada by people who don't yet have the virus. And it's incredibly effective: if used consistently and as directed, studies show it can reduce the risk of HIV transmission by between 85% and 92%.
PrEP isn't exactly cheap, without insurance coverage it costs anywhere from $750 per month for the generic version to about $1000 per month for Truvada. That being said some insurance plans and provincial drug plans are now starting to cover PrEP. In Quebec, for example, PrEP is covered under the Régie de l'Assurance Maladie, and in BC Truvada is administered for free by the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, a research institute in Vancouver. In Ontario, though, while the Trillium Drug Program covers the cost of Truvada for treatment of HIV, it doesn't cover it for prophylactic use, meaning many Ontarians who want to use PrEP have to pay for it out of pocket.
Miranda Elliott reports
Angela White, St. Paul's Hospital Volunteer