Thousands of people at the highest risk of acquiring HIV in B.C. are benefiting after a successful year since government expanded coverage for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).
“Since expanding access to PrEP on Jan. 1, 2018, nearly 3,300 people have been prescribed the potentially life-saving medications. It is positive to see people are participating in government’s expansion of this program and taking charge of their health by protecting themselves from HIV/AIDS,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “For more than a year, people at high risk of HIV infection have had access to these treatments, and through this program, we will continue to work with the BC Centre for Excellence (BC-CfE) in HIV/AIDS, and health-care and community partners, to prevent more cases and support people who are living with HIV.”
The preventive treatment has been available at no cost through the BC-CfE for eligible British Columbians, including men who have sex with men, transgender women, people with ongoing relationships with HIV-positive sex partners who are not on regular HIV medication or have a low viral load, and people who share drug-use equipment with a partner known to be living with HIV.
The expansion of coverage for HIV PrEP and PEP in B.C. added a new resource to the BC-CfE’s Treatment as Prevention program.
“We are delighted with the uptake of our preventive treatment programs PrEP and PEP,” said Dr. Julio Montaner, executive director and physician-in-chief of the BC-CfE. “We anticipate that at this rate, the preventive treatment program will further reduce new HIV infections in B.C.”
Since its establishment in 1992, the BC-CfE has worked to improve the health and longevity of people living with HIV, and to prevent new HIV infections through research, innovation and treatment programs. PrEP is one component of the made-in-B.C. Treatment as Prevention strategy pioneered by the BC-CfE to expand the reach of HIV treatment in order to reduce morbidity, mortality and HIV transmission. This expansion forms the basis of the provincial Seek and Treat for Optimal Prevention of HIV/AIDS (STOP HIV/AIDS) program, with $19.9 million in annual funding from the Ministry of Health.
- There are an estimated 7,271 British Columbians living with HIV.
- PrEP is a daily oral antiretroviral medication that is highly effective in reducing new cases of HIV — between 92% and 99% in some clinical trials.
- Since expanding access to PrEP on Jan 1, 2018, uptake has continued to grow. Six months following government’s coverage expansion, there were 1,944 people who had sought-out coverage.
- According to data from the BC-CfE’s drug treatment program:
- Of the individuals who have accessed PrEP, the median age is 34.
- 84% reside in Greater Vancouver and 2.3% reside in a rural location.
- Of the individuals who accessed PrEP, 98.4% are male, 0.5% are female and 1.1% identify as transgender, other gender identity or unspecified.
- PEP has been available since 1998 for people who encounter an isolated HIV exposure, predominately in the occupational setting.
- PEP uptake from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018, was 1,182 PEP five-day starter kits and of those, 642 people continued their PEP for a complete 28 days.
For more information on the work of the BC-CfE, visit: http://cfenet.ubc.ca/