Alberta will cover PrEP – a drug for HIV prevention that can effectively stop the spread of disease by up to 99 percent – from 1 October onwards.
"It's about public health, it's about promoting health and preventing disease," Prime Minister Rachel Notley said during a surprise announcement during a fundraising campaign for Camp fYrefly, a senior retreat for queer and trans teens on Saturday.
The event was held during the Calgary's Pride Week.
"By reducing the incidence of HIV for people at higher risk of developing HIV, making it more accessible and affordable, we are able to reduce the incidence of HIV, as simple as that."
PrEP or pre-exposure prophylaxis is a daily pill that works much like a vaccine if taken on a regular basis ̵
The drug costs $ 250 a month – about $ 8.30 a day – and the brand name Truvada can cost up to $ 1,000 a month
Notley said the government will increase the number of doctors along with the coverage they are supposed to prescribe for PrEP so that it will be available throughout the province.
Pam Krause, president and CEO of the Center for Sexuality in Calgary, said the announcement was critical to public health.
"It's a big step forward to give people shelter and access," said Krause.
Approximately 80,500 Canadians were diagnosed with HIV, according to the non-profit organization HIV Community Link, and about one in five do not know they were infected.  Alone in Alberta, more than 200 people were diagnosed last year.
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The virus that weakens the immune system is not curable but can be treated with treatment. It can lead to AIDS – a deadly syndrome that occurs when the immune system has been badly damaged.
"This has been a real progression for people who prevent a very destructive disease, a very preventable disease that lowers costs and saves lives," said MLA's David Swann, who is also a doctor.
Alex Smith is a nurse in Calgary and founder of the Davie Buyers Club – a website that provides a workaround for people who have access to PrEP.
The guide shows Canadians how to order a 90-day drug supply – the maximum legal amount that can be imported to Canada for personal use – from India, Thailand and Singapore. It is then sent to a US post office for which the recipient has pre-registered, and then they cross the border to pick up the drug personally.
"I'm looking forward to the day when the Davie Buyers Club is no longer necessary." said Smith
"I think it's long overdue because too many Albertans had to give up another country or had to get to this drug … I think this announcement will lead to a dramatic drop in HIV infections the province is advancing. "
Alberta is the seventh province in Canada to introduce PrEp coverage.
Health Minister Sarah Hoffman will provide more details on how reporting will be implemented in the coming weeks, Notley said.
With files by Terri Trembath