This Pride month, I’m thinking about how to build a better world for those at risk of contracting HIV.
For over a decade, I volunteered and worked as a peer youth educator for HIV/AIDS prevention at Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS). Toronto has a robust set of community agencies that are focused on sexual health. The work that these organizations do is absolutely essential to easing burdens on the healthcare system, ensuring healthy sexual relations, and having access to services they need to be healthy: mentally, physically, and spiritually.
I am proud of the work I did to help educate and empower young people to take control of their bodies and make informed choices.
Public Health professionals will tell you that one of the biggest game changers in HIV prevention has been the use of PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) medication. Using this medication can mean the difference between life-changing exposure to HIV and not contracting HIV.
Racialized people, transgender people, Intravenous Drug Users (IDUs), and men who have sex with men are the highest risk for HIV infections. For many of them, the cost of a medication like PrEP is just out of their reach. Monthly costs can be upwards of $250 for generic versions of the medication and upwards of $1,000 for the branded versions. For those who do not have a private benefits plan, that cost can be far too much to shoulder.
For those who want to access safer sex, you should be able to use your health card to access PrEP, not your credit card. For the medication you need to be healthy, you shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the cost. With the NDP’s plan for national pharmacare, you’ll be able to access the medication you need to without ever having to worry about being able to afford it.
Pride should be political and fun. You shouldn’t have to worry about whether you can afford the medication you need. Pharmacare is a transformational policy that will build and sustain our communities for years to come.