World AIDS Day shines a light on preventative HIV medicine coverage

December 1st marks World Aids Day across the globe and a London, Ont. politician continues to push the province to provide coverage for an HIV-prevention drug.

NDP MPP Terance Kernaghan calls for the province to cover the HIV-prevention drug PrEP

NDP MPP Terance Kernaghan continues to press the province to provide coverage for pre-exposure prophylaxis treatment (PrEP) for at-risk people in Ontario. (CBC)

December 1st marks World AIDS Day across the globe and a London, Ont. politician continues to push the province to provide coverage for an HIV-prevention drug.

World AIDS Day is a day to commemorate the victims of AIDS and raise awareness about the spread of HIV. The World Health Organization has announced this year's theme for the 30th anniversary of World AIDS day as "know your status".

New Democrat MPP Terance Kernaghan is Ontario's LGBTQ Issues critic. He hopes the province will provide universal coverage for the drug pre-exposure prophylaxis, also known as PrEP.

"Health care is a major struggle. When we look across Canada, provinces cover the cost of PrEP, which will hault the spread of AIDS and keep infection rates low," said Kernaghan.

"Unfortunately, that's a drug that is not covered in Ontario."

PrEP is a daily pill that is up to 99 per cent effective in stopping the transmission of HIV.

The cost of the generic form of the drug runs about $250 per month, while the brand name version, Truvada, costs up to $1,000 per month. For some vulnerable at-risk Ontarians, higher costs have kept them from being able to purchase the medicine.

Province wide, there are about 30,000 people living with HIV, with 1 in 5 people unaware that they have the virus. The lifetime health care costs for each patient is estimated to be $250,000. Kernaghan says covering the preventative medicine would save the province money in the long run.

"We believe that if people are taking the medication that they require under a universal pharmacare program, that people will be healthier and we will see a cost saving across the health sector," he said.

Kernaghan began to push for the province to invest in the drug coverage in September, but so far there has been no action.

Alberta approved the coverage of the medicine starting Oct. 1, joining six other provinces that already provide coverage.

Globally, there were an estimated 36.9 million people with HIV in 2017 and an estimated 940,000 people who died of AIDS-related illness.