“Red tape is not an excuse,” advocates for the free provision of HIV prophylactic PrEP have told the NWT’s health minister.
Julie Green has said she supports making PrEP more widely available but cannot make “immediate changes” while a broader review of health benefits in the territory is under way.
In a press release on Monday, campaigner Will Gagnon highlighted that an online petition supporting free access to PrEP in the territory has now received more than 20,000 signatures worldwide.
PrEP, a pill taken once daily, is reported to be 99-percent effective in preventing infection if you are later exposed to HIV. The pill is fully funded by governments in Yukon, Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Without insurance, it can cost up to $300 per month.
“The Northwest Territories has one of the highest rates of syphilis in Canada at the moment – and syphilis has a syndemic relationship with HIV, meaning one makes the other more likely,” read Monday’s press release.
“The Government of the Northwest Territories, particularly Minister Green, must do its best to protect the health and wellbeing of its citizens. Making HIV PrEP publicly funded is part of doing that.”
In a previous interview with Cabin Radio, Green had said that while she was “looking forward to offering” PrEP to more people, “we’re not doing it on your schedule.”
Last week, the NWT government issued an update on the health benefits review process that the minister has said must move forward before PrEP changes can be made.
“The intent is to have the new Extended Health Benefits policy drafted and brought forward for consideration by cabinet by spring 2023, with the goal of the new policy being fully implemented by April 1, 2024,” the territory stated on its website.
The Department of Health and Social Services said on Monday it had no further comment regarding PrEP.