Nfld. & Labrador

HIV prevention drug PrEP now covered under provincial drug plan

The medication helps to prevent HIV infection in people at risk.

Move will help low-income people and sex workers, says head of AIDS Committee

Gerard Yetman says the move will help vulnerable people who are at high risk of HIV infection. (CBC)

The provincial drug plan is now covering the cost of PrEP, an HIV prevention medication.

"We hope that it will have an impact," said Gerard Yetman, the executive director of the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is an antiviral medication that can prevent contraction of HIV. The common brand-name PrEP is called Truvada, but Yetman says there are now a number of cheaper generic brands available.

Both Truvada and the suite of generic brands will be covered by the provincial drug plan, Yetman said.

Aimed at high-risk populations

The drugs are aimed at people who have a higher-than-average risk of exposure to HIV, Yetman said. They've been quite expensive in the past, he said, and government's decision to cover their costs means vulnerable people like those with low incomes or people who don't always have the power to insist on safer sex practices, like sex workers, can now have access.

This is really a scientific breakthrough.- Gerard Yetman

It's also great news for couples in which one partner is HIV positive and the other is not, he said. 

"This is really a scientific breakthrough in that it will enable people who are significantly at risk to be able to prevent HIV infection," he said.

PrEP is recommended by the World Health organization as an important strategy to prevent HIV transmission, he said, and many other provinces cover the cost of the medication.

Truvada is the well-known brand name version of the medication, but generics are also available. (CBC)

Yetman said government responded swiftly to the AIDS Committee's recommendation that PrEP be covered by the province.

"We're very delighted that we didn't have to do a lot of advocacy in any way for the government to approve it here in Newfoundland."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador