Winnipeg - Manitoba Liberal Leader and MLA for St. Boniface Dougald Lamont says Manitoba needs to join Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia in covering the cost of the highly effective HIV treatment medication known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and should make testing for HIV routinely available to all Manitobans.
Manitoba is the only province in Western Canada that doesn't cover PrEP under the province's pharmacare plan. Routine testing for HIV would also catch more cases. In 2017, the Public Health Agency of Canada calculated that 1 in 5 Canadians who have HIV don't know it.
"We have called on the Pallister government to cover life-saving medications to keep people healthier. Covering HIV medication keeps people healthier and can prevent infection entirely," said Lamont. "HIV infection rates in Manitoba are too high, and this would help bring those numbers down."
In January 2018, the Pallister government released its Annual Statistical Update: HIV and AIDS report, with statistics from 2016, showing that there were 128 new HIV cases, an increase of 47% compared to 2014. Manitoba and Saskatchewan have rates of new cases of HIV much higher than the rest of Canada.
A more recent update on HIV by Nine Circles for 2017 also showed the number of HIV cases from injection drug use had increased to 18%.
Lamont and the Liberals also said Health Manitoba needs to resume updating its website about infectious diseases. The Annual Report for Communicable diseases hasn't been updated since 2015 and monthly updates on everything from measles, mumps and rubella to STIs haven't been updated since June, 2017.
Lamont said this is a concern because STIs and HIV are both known risks associated with meth addiction.
"Better testing and making sure Manitobans can access life-saving medication is key to getting out ahead of and containing HIV," said Lamont. "It will save lives."