November 6, 2023 (Vancouver, B.C.) – Community organizations have reignited their call to the B.C. Government to stop blocking access to an HIV treatment that can greatly improve quality of life.
People living with HIV in B.C. have been waiting over three years for access to Cabenuva, the first long-acting HIV treatment approved by Health Canada in 2020.
“Long-acting medications are still not meaningfully available in B.C.,” said Sarah Chown, Executive Director at AIDS Vancouver. “We regularly hear from people who are asking for long-acting treatment but are being denied. Compared to other parts of the country, B.C. has extra approval processes and criteria that are not being consistently applied.”
AIDS Vancouver and several community partners have revamped a letter-writing campaign to B.C. MLAs launched in March 2023, urging the provincial government to provide broad access to long-acting HIV treatment.
Long-acting treatment is a major scientific advancement in HIV care. For the first time in history, people living with HIV now have an alternative to taking daily pills.
“Long-acting HIV treatment gives people freedom,” said Patience Magagula, Executive Director of Afro-Canadian Positive Network. “We are losing people in our community from stigma. Some people are afraid of facing violence due to their HIV status. Long-acting treatments can relieve this daily stress by providing privacy and flexibility in how and when people take their medications.”
This is an issue of equity. People could access long-acting treatment more easily if they only lived in another province or territory. Many people are asking for access to long-acting HIV treatment options, including Indigenous people, people living with HIV since childhood, refugees and newcomers from Sub-Saharan Africa.
"People living with HIV, particularly those who have lived with it from birth, have long anticipated the possibility of long-acting treatment," stated Furqan Waleed, Director of Programs at YouthCO. "It is disheartening to witness a system that touts meaningful engagement fall behind in supporting the HIV community. The obstruction of access to crucial long-acting injectables infringes upon individuals' autonomy in making decisions about their own bodies."
In other provinces, the decision to prescribe long-acting HIV treatment is between a qualified health care provider and a patient. In B.C., long-acting HIV treatment is approved only on a case-by-case basis by a third-party organization. People who want long-acting and who meet all of Health Canada’s eligibility criteria are being denied.
More information on the campaign can be found on the AIDS Vancouver website. www.aidsvancouver.org/treatment_now
About AIDS Vancouver
AIDS Vancouver supports people living with, and affected by, HIV throughout the Lower Mainland. Our model combines peer navigators, case managers, a supplementary food program, and group programs in community and clinical settings.
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