HIV-prevention drug Prep now provided on P.E.I.

Islanders can now access a drug that can be taken daily, before exposure occurs, to help prevent contracting an HIV infection as P.E.I. joins other provinces in providing the coverage.

Available for free to Islanders at risk who otherwise can't afford it

Without coverage, the drug costs about $230 a month. (CBC)

Islanders can now access the drug Prep to help prevent contracting HIV infection, CBC has learned. 

The province has now started covering the cost of the pills for Islanders at risk who otherwise could not afford the drug.

Prep, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is sold under the trade name Truvada. It is taken in pill form on a daily basis to reduce risk of HIV infection.

"It's something that is certainly under discussion and review right across the country," said Dr. Heather Morrison, chief public health officer.

"It's something we want to consider like other provinces and territories ... most provinces at this point in time have some coverage."

7 new cases of HIV in 2018

P.E.I.'s Health Department sent notice to Island doctors and nurse practitioners earlier this year stating the province would cover the cost of Truvada for people who can't afford it, the province confirmed to CBC. A monthly prescription costs about $230.

Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s chief medical officer, says use of the drug is advised for those at high risk of contracting HIV. (CBC)

According to new Canadian guidelines on the use of Prep, gay and bisexual men remain at high risk of HIV infection, as do intravenous drug users.

Morrison said that seven new cases of HIV infection were diagnosed on P.E.I. in 2018. On average, the annual number of new cases in recent years has been three. In total, 57 Islanders are currently living with HIV.

"It's a chronic disease and like chronic disease, it's treatable — not like it was 30 years ago," Morrison said.

The pill is just one piece of a broader effort to manage sexually transmitted and blood-borne diseases on P.E.I., she said.

"In terms of public health messaging it's around prevention, of not sharing needles, safer sex practices ... this is one more prevention tool," said Morrison.

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  • In a previous version of this story we said the Health Department had notified practical nurses of the change. We have corrected it to say nurse practitioners.
    Mar 29, 2019 12:49 PM AT