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PrEP coverage for BC’s First Nations and Inuit communities: What is PrEP and how to access it?

Good news!

For First Nations who are residents of BC and receiving benefits through the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), PrEP/Truvada is a covered benefit and is available at no cost.

Inuit who are residents of BC are eligible to receive PrEP/Truvada at no cost through the Non-Insured Healthcare Benefits (NIHB) program.

Filling a prescription for PrEP is the same as filling any other prescription: the prescription from the doctor can be filled at any pharmacy in BC. The pharmacy will fill the prescription at no cost and there is no pre-approval form or process needed for First Nation and Inuit people.

What’s PrEP?

PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. It is a pill taken daily to inhibit the transmission of HIV if someone is exposed to HIV. If a condom breaks while having sex, someone has sex without a condom or someone shares a needle with someone who has HIV – if that person is on PrEP and exposed to HIV, their chances of getting HIV are extremely low.

The brand name of the medication currently approved for use as HIV PrEP in Canada is Truvada. Truvada is a pill that combines the anti-HIV medications tenofovir and emtricitabine. Originally used to treat people living with HIV in combination with other drugs, Truvada was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use as PrEP in 2012. Health Canada approved Truvada for use as PrEP on February 29, 2016.

Accessing PrEP

Anyone who is First Nations, a resident of BC and receiving benefits through the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), can access PrEP/Truvada as a covered benefit and at no cost through FNHA. For more information (including pharmacy questions), please contact FNHA Benefits Department toll free at 1-855-550-5454 or email HealthBenefits@fnha.ca.

Anyone who is Inuit, a resident of BC and receiving benefits through the Non-Insured Healthcare Benefits (NIHB) program, can access PrEP/Truvada as a covered benefit and at no cost through NIHB. For more information, please contact Health Canada directly at 1-800-232-7301. 

An HIV test and other blood tests are needed before receiving a prescription for PrEP/Truvada.

Filling a prescription for Truvada is the same as filling any other prescription at a local pharmacy. The pharmacy will fill the prescription at no cost to the community member once they present their status card.

Once on Truvada, an individual must be retested every 3 months and at that time will receive another prescription for a 90-day supply of Truvada.

Because PrEP is relatively new to British Columbia, finding a primary service provider that knows about PrEP may prove to be challenging. In the Vancouver area, PrEP is prescribed at the following selected health clinics:

For more information

  1. BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. Guidance for the use of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for the prevention of HIV acquisition in British Columbia (October 2017).
  2. Tan D, Hull M, Yoong D, Tremblay C, O’Byrne P, Thomas R, Kille J, Baril J, Cox J, Giguere P, Harris M, Hughes C, MacPherson P, O’Donnell S, Reimer J, Singh A, Barrett L, Bogoch I, Jollimore J, Lambert G, Lebouche B, Metz G, Rogers T and S Shafran. Canadian guideline on HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis and non-occupational post-exposure prophylaxis. CMAJ November 27, 2017 189 (47) E1448-E1458. http://www.cmaj.ca/content/189/47/E1448

Updated: February 8, 2018

Categories: Current practice

Search related content: PrEP, First Nations, HIV, prevention

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