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This Canadian Province May Subsidize an HIV Prevention Drug

Alberta is considering adding an HIV prevention drug that costs up to $1,000 per month to its provincial public drug benefit plan, according to sexual health advocates.

This move would make the prescription more affordable, thus making it more accessible to the average person.

Advocates say that HIV affects approximately 6,800 people in Alberta, according to CBC and this drug, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), can prevent the spread of HIV, when taken as required.

Take Action: Help #makeHIVhistory on Vivoom

Other provinces have already made changes to make the medication more accessible. Ontario and Quebec, for instance, have subsidized the drug and British Columbia has even made it free for high-risk citizens.

As it stands, the brand name of PrEP, Truvada, can cost up to $1,000 per month and even the generic version can reach costs of $400-$500 per month.

"I think I speak for any gay man or any man who has sex with men when I say there is that underlying anxiety when it comes to HIV," Kyle Wilson, a 25-year-old Calgarian told CBC. "We have so many tools available to prevent the spread of HIV, and it's quite infuriating to see that we're not taking advantage of them to the full extent that we can."

Read More: 5 Reasons Why We Need to Keep Funding the Fight Against HIV/AIDS

While PrEp is not a vaccine, when combined with safe sex practices, it is 99% effective in preventing the spread of HIV, and its implementation comes at a time when HIV research is at the forefront of big wins.

In 2016, Johnson & Johnson announced that they began testing an HIV vaccine and while it is still in early stages of testing, an HIV vaccine could literally save millions of lives every year.

Other countries have gone as far as to give Truvada pills away at no cost, like Brazil, which announced on World AIDS Day that it would bring the pill to more than 50,000 people over the next five years at no cost, according to a press release from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Read More: Brazil Is Giving Away Free Preventative HIV Pills to 50,000 People in the Next 5 Years

Still, more than 1 million people died from AIDS-related causes in 2016, 1.8 million people contracted HIV and over 20 million cases went untreated, according to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF).

The funds spent on prescription drugs in Canada represents a significant component of the overall health care costs, according to the Patented Medicine Price Review.

In 2016, the national Common Drug Review recommended that provinces add Truvada to the public drug benefit list, if it were distributed through a sexual health program and that the cost of the drug decreased, according to Global News.

Read More: Here Are the 9 Biggest Global Health Moments From 2017

“We need to make sure we’re working together with our partners across the country to be able to get the best price possible for the drug for Albertans,” Associate Health Minister Brandy Payne told Global News in July.

In 2016, there were 282 new HIV infections in Alberta and advocates argue that better access to Truvada would decrease the number of cases.

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