Dr. Julio Montaner, director at BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, in Vancouver June 26. (BC-CFE/Twitter)

B.C. Health

HIV-prevention drug used by 2,000 B.C. patients since becoming fully-funded

Pre-exposure prophylaxis – also known as PrEP – was made available at no cost on Jan. 1, 2018

More than 2,000 people with HIV or at high risk of infection have accessed a potentially life-saving medication since it was placed under PharmaCare coverage earlier this year.

That’s according to Health Minister Adrian Dix, who celebrated the milestone in Vancouver Tuesday, alongside the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis – also known as PrEP – was made available at no cost on Jan. 1, after the daily use of the oral antiretroviral medication was recommended by the World Health Organization and B.C. healthcare officials as an effective method to prevent HIV in people at risk of infection.

Dr. Julio Montaner, director of the centre, said that when the PrEP program reaches 5,ooo patients, researchers believe that will translate to an 83 per cent reduction of new HIV cases as early as 2026.

WATCH: Sexually transmitted infections up, HIV down in B.C.

READ MORE: Battle to beat AIDS offers lessons in fighting opioid crisis

Montaner is the doctor behind the lifesaving anti-retroviral therapy called HAART, and for most of his career has stood at the forefront of HIV treatment innovation.

Since the introduction of HAART in 1996, Montaner said new cases of HIV decreased from 900 new cases to 200.

“But that is still 200 cases too many,” he said.

About 73 per cent of those accessing the centre’s drug therapy program are in the Greater Vancouver area, but Montaner said the medication has reached all corners of the province.

“Ultimately, the goal of a strong public-health strategy is a reduction in disease, alongside long-term health-care sustainability,” he said.

“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.”


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ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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