Canada has become the third country in the world to approve a revolutionary new method of HIV prevention.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) drug Truvada can drastically reduce people’s chances of being infected with HIV if taken daily.
The drug has been endorsed by the World Health Organisation and is already routinely available to at-risk men in the US and France – and is under consideration in other countries, including Israel and the UK.
This week, Canada has become the third country to move on the daily pill, which can reduce the chances of contracting HIV by 99 percent.
The drug was formally approved by Health Canada, the country’s national health body, on February 23.
A Health Canada spokesperson told BuzzFeed Canada: “The drug is intended for use by high risk individuals – such as those whose sexual partner is HIV positive – in combination with safer sex practises, including condom use.”
The daily pill does not come cheap – costing around $800 per month – and proponents say it should be publicly-funded, as it is actually far cheaper than treatment for people who contract HIV.
Joshua Edward of Vancouver’s Health Initiative for Men told Daily Xtra: “The Health Canada approval means nothing, in terms of access to the general population.
“I think it’s a fair question to ask why the province is paying for HIV medications that cost so much more and not willing to invest in supporting a preventative medication.”
Opponents of the drug warn it may wrongly be seen as an alternative to condoms given it is not 100 percent effective – with the first documented case last month of a man contracting HIV while on PrEP.
Norbert W. Bischofberger of pharma company Gilead said: “Today’s approval of Truvada for PrEP in Canada represents a meaningful advance in Gilead’s efforts to address HIV across the entire spectrum, including prevention, treatment, and testing and linkage to care.
“We are pleased to offer this important HIV prevention tool to at-risk populations in Canada and we remain engaged with regulatory agencies in other countries around the world that express interest in Truvada for PrEP.”
Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, who came to power last year, is a strong supporter of LGBT rights and diversity.
He recently confirmed he would make history by marching in Toronto’s Pride parade – the first time the country’s head of government has done so. He has also publicly taken a stand against homophobic bullying.
Mr Trudeau recently confirmed he intends to posthumously pardon a man who was jailed simply for being gay in the 1960s.