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HIV prevention drug now available under Newfoundland and Labrador plan

People at risk of HIV infection in Newfoundland and Labrador can now access Truvada and generic brands of pre-exposure prophylaxis under the provincial drug plan.
People at risk of HIV infection in Newfoundland and Labrador can now access Truvada and generic brands of pre-exposure prophylaxis under the provincial drug plan. - Contributed

People in Newfoundland and Labrador can now access an HIV prevention drug through the provincial drug program.

While Truvada and generic brands of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) — a daily medication that helps prevent HIV infection — were previously available to anyone who could afford to purchase it, or who were covered through insurance, it is now available to everyone in the province.

People who cannot afford drug coverage can apply for coverage under the provincial drug plan.

The AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador (ACNL) said this is particularly important given the province has experienced an increase in HIV infections over the past four years.

“It’s very important because it is a prevention tool,” ACNL executive director Gerard Yetman said.

Daily use of PrEP is recommended by the World Health Organization as an effective method to prevent HIV in people at significant risk of infection, such as men and transwomen who have sex with men, people who inject drugs and people who have sex with individuals with HIV.

“It’s also a very important prevention tool for people who are not in a position to use protection all the time. … Particularly, it’s important for women who are not always in a position of power to be able to insist on safer sex practices,” Yetman said.

“This presents an opportunity for them to protect themselves if they feel that they’re at significant risk of infection, for whatever reason.”

PrEP is part of a range of preventative measures, including the use of condoms and sterile drug use equipment.

While the drug helps to prevent HIV infection, it does not prevent any other sexually transmitted blood borne infections.

In a news release, ACNL said people who are interested in PrEP must consider the following factors:

  • PrEP must only be used by people who are HIV negative.
  • PrEP must only be accessed through a family physician or nurse practitioner.
  • PrEP requires that people are highly adherent to PrEP medications as prescribed.
  • People who want to start taking PrEP should first be tested for kidney function and screened for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, syphilis, hepatitis A, B and C.
  • People who are taking PrEP should have regular clinic visits with a health care provider, once after 30 days on PrEP and every three months thereafter, to test for HIV and STIs, to monitor for side effects and toxicity, and for adherence and risk-reduction counselling.

juanita.mercer@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @juanitamercer_

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