PrEP is available at no cost in British Columbia for those of us who are HIV-negative and may come into contact with HIV when we're having sex or sharing needles! PrEP is free for those of us who are Indigenous, whether or not we have status, and those of us who are refugees.
In British Columbia, PrEP is provided by the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, and all the information here about getting PrEP comes from their website here.
Here are the steps to get PrEP!
1. Find a doctor we are comfortable asking for PrEP. In talking about PrEP with a health care provider, we will likely be asked questions about the sex we are having or the drugs we are using. Not all health care providers may be comfortable providing PrEP, either because it is new and they may not feel like they have enough information, or because they may be hesitant about this new HIV prevention option. The BC Centre for Excellence has information we can give to our health care provider here, or we can ask them to call the Centre's pharmacy support line Monday - Friday, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm at 1-888-511-6222. Doctors in Canada can prescribe PrEP, but not all doctors may have experience doing so. Finding a doctor can be challenging. If you want help in finding someone, let us know and we may be able to help.
2. Complete medical tests required for PrEP. Our doctor will ask us to complete tests before writing us a prescription. These tests include an HIV test, tests to measure kidney function, and tests to detect Hep B and Hep C, as well as other STIs. Our doctor will also check about other health conditions we may have as it may impact how Truvada impacts our bodies and health.
If our test results show PrEP is not a good fit for our bodies, we can talk with our health care provider or connect with programs like Mpowerment to learn about other HIV prevention options that may work instead of PrEP.
3. Get a prescription! If our test results show we are a good candidate for PrEP, then our doctor can submit a prescription request form. This form is submitted for approval by the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, who will then tell our health care provider the prescription is approved. Our health care provider will then tell us where to pick up the medications.
4. Pick up our medication. We are responsible for picking up our PrEP medications. For those of us in the Greater Vancouver area, the pick up location is the St. Paul's Hospital Ambulatory Pharmacy at 163-1081 Burrard St. For those of us outside the Greater Vancouver Area, our medications will be sent to the doctor who prescribed them. Once we have our medications, then we are able to start taking them as per the instructions we were given.
5. Stay connected to our doctor. Because PrEP only works for those of us who are HIV-negative, and it may impact our kidneys and bone density, it is important that we make ongoing appointments. These appointments are also required for us to get a refill on our prescription.