Over 2,000 people prescribed HIV prevention drug since B.C. fully funded it, health minister says

Since the start of 2018, more than 2,000 people have been prescribed a potentially life-saving drug to prevent new HIV infections in B.C.

That’s according to B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix, who says the province continues to lead the way in the global fight against the disease.

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B.C. government expands coverage preventing HIV

The cutting-edge strategies are called PrEP and PEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis and post-exposure prophylaxis.

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The province celebrated the six-month milestone since the province introduced no-cost coverage of PrEP and expanded assess to PEP for high-risk patients in a news conference Tuesday morning.

“Six months ago we launched a significant initiative… we didn’t do it with fanfare then because we wanted to show not tell what the impact of this policy could be,” Dix said.

“It has already become the largest publicly funded effort of this nature in North America,” he added.

Dix said the drug cocktail has been shown to be 92 to 99 per cent effective in battling the disease.

Funding for that program is now being expanded, while at the same time, the number of new diagnoses of HIV has dropped to fewer than 200.

Dix said there are an estimated 7,271 people living with HIV in B.C.

“We’re trying to set an example for the rest of the country and the rest of the world on how to roll out these programs effectively, efficiently and in a cost-effective manner so that we can combat and ultimately achieve an end to the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) director Julio Montaner said.

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PrEP is for people at high risk of infection, while PEP provides immediate access to people who have been sexually assaulted so they can protect themselves from infection.

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Dix said the cost of the drug expansion, about $279,000, is being funded through PharmaCare.

When requested through the BC-CfE, the province said, the drug is free for eligible residents including men who have sex with men, transgender women, people with ongoing relationships with HIV-positive sex partners and people who inject drugs with a known HIV-positive partner.

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