Celebrating six months of success preventing new HIV infections throughout B.C.

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People throughout B.C. are benefiting from expanded coverage for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), as strong uptake for the publicly funded drug continues to grow.

“The expansion of coverage for PrEP and PEP keeps B.C. at the forefront of fighting the spread of HIV and AIDS,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “By supporting the introduction of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS’ Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy, the lifesaving drug cocktail that changed the face of HIV, our province continues to sees a consistent decline in new cases of HIV.”

Since B.C. introduced no-cost coverage of PrEP, and expanded access to PEP for those at high risk of HIV infection on Jan. 1, 2018, over 2,000 people have been prescribed the potentially life-saving medications. Celebrating this milestone together, the B.C. government and the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) will continue working to reduce the number of new HIV infections in B.C., by providing expanded coverage of PrEP and PEP throughout the province.

The expansion of coverage for PrEP and PEP in B.C. added a new resource to the BC-CfE’s Treatment as Prevention (TasP) program. When the program reaches 5,000 individuals, the BC-CfE believes the province will achieve a greater than 83% reduction of new HIV cases by 2026.

“With the expanded access to PrEP and PEP, we are making important investments to the publicly funded health system, not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because people depend on us to help them live their healthiest possible lives, and that is something we’re committed to do,” added Dix.

The drug has been available at no cost when requested 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 and people who inject drugs with a known HIV-positive partner.

“The work we have done in HIV and AIDS proves the political will and expertise exists in British Columbia to expand the principles of TasP to other contagions,” said Dr. Julio Montaner, director of the BC-CfE. “This can have an immediate and measurable impact on the treatment and elimination of other high-burden diseases, such as hepatitis C, in British Columbia and across Canada. Ultimately, the goal of a strong public-health strategy is a reduction in disease, alongside long-term health-care sustainability. If we can curb HIV, imagine the global leadership B.C. can show in tackling other communicable diseases through expanding access to testing, treatment and prevention.”

Quick Facts:

* PrEP is a daily oral antiretroviral medication highly effective in reducing new cases of HIV – up to 92-99% in some clinical trials.

* According to data from the BC-CfE’s drug treatment program, of the individuals who have accessed PrEP, the median age is 34. In the program, 73% of the users are new, 70% reside in Greater Vancouver and 99% are male.

* Between January and June 2018, there were 1,944 people who benefitted from expanded PrEP coverage.

* PEP uptake between January and April 2018 was 400 PEP kit initiations. During the same period last year, there were only 325 initiations, an increase of 23% from 2017 to 2018.

* Since pre-Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy, the number of annual cases of HIV has dropped from nearly 900 new cases to fewer than 200.

* B.C. is the only province in Canada to implement the made-in-B.C. TasP strategy pioneered by Montaner and the BC-CfE, and the only one to see a consistent decline in new HIV cases.

* The BC TasP has been adopted by China, Brazil and Panama, among many other jurisdictions worldwide.

* Research by the BC-CfE shows gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men are disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic, with 46% of new cases in B.C. occurring among this group.