“Are you on PrEP?”
That question is common currency on men’s dating apps. In some cases, the answer figures as importantly in a profile as does height, weight and sexual preference. In the blink of an eye, it’s possible to know if a potential partner has ingested this powder blue pill that protects its taker from an HIV infection.
By Maxime Beauregard-Martin
Accessible to All?
The monthly cost for a full dosage of PrEP can run as high as $995. In Québec, it’s covered by the province’s prescription drug insurance program, RAMQ. In 2019, 4,055 people were reimbursed by RAMQ for PrEP. Without private insurance, under RAMQ you have to spend around $95 for a bottle of 30 pills.
The annual cost of a “triple therapy” regimen against HIV can exceed $30,000.
“The triple therapy is one pill you have to take every day for the rest of your life, whereas you can choose to stop taking PrEP,” Felix points out. He’s stopped taking the powder blue pill since he entered into a relationship.
Like the triple therapy, PrEP can reduce the stigmatization that HIV-positive people endure. “Before taking PrEP, I was cold to the idea of having sexual relations with someone carrying HIV,” says Grégoire, who uses dating apps. “Now, I’m more at ease with the idea.”
According to Jean-Nicolas Granger, who works with the gay men’s support group RÉZO, this sense of security is absolutely necessary for sex workers.
“They don’t always know if their clients are HIV-positive,” he says. “The pandemic has reduced their income, so sex workers don’t always have a choice of limiting themselves to HIV-negative clients.”
His organization is campaigning for the medication to be offered for free.
“There’s a whole population at risk who don’t benefit from RAMQ coverage and who simply don’t have the means to pay,” Granger laments.