'We dropped the ball': Some Indigenous people had access to HIV drug for years without knowing

Published 05, Jan, 2018
Author // Guest Authors - Revolving Door

It shows gaps and fissures within our heath-care delivery system,' activist says of Truvada coverage. From CBC News, this report by Angela Sterritt.

 'We dropped the ball': Some Indigenous people had access to HIV drug for years without knowing

Two-spirit activist Harlan Pruden says First Nations organizations failed Indigenous people by not disseminating enough information about a groundbreaking HIV/AIDS treatment.

When two-spirit organizer and HIV/AIDS activist Harlan Pruden heard the news that the preventative drug PrEP was now available cost-free in B.C. he was elated. "It's phenomenal news that B.C.'s community now has access to this evidence-based, effective HIV prevention intervention," Pruden said.

But he said very few Indigenous people know that the brand name version of the drug, Truvada, has been free for First Nations people in the province for several years. "What is astonishing about this is that First Nations and Inuit rarely have first access to anything, and where was the news story about this three years ago?" Pruden asked.

First Nations have had free access since 2013

The B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS recently procured an affordable generic brand of PrEP, also known as pre-exposure prophylaxis treatment, that enabled the province to provide it for free to those at a high risk of contracting the virus. It can reduce the risk of HIV infection by more than 90 per cent. Meanwhile, the First Nations Health Authority confirmed that First Nations in this province have had free access to Truvada since the end of 2013. Over the last three years, only 23 people have made use of the free drug.

Pruden blames Indigenous organizations for not getting the word out. "I think that we dropped the ball given that the community could have been accessing this intervention if they chose, but nobody knew about it," Pruden said.

In its defence, the FNHA said decisions related to specific health treatment options occur between clients and care providers.

To read the complete article by Angela Sterritt, visit CBC News, here.

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Guest Authors - Revolving Door

Guest Authors - Revolving Door

The Revolving Door is the place where we publish occasional articles by guest writers. If you would like to submit an article for publication, please contact editor Bob Leahy at editor@positivelite.com