HIV pre­ven­tion drug now avail­able un­der plan

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - Classified - BY JUANITA MERCER

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.

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