Autres nouvelles Hookup Apps Are Doing a Better Job at HIV Prevention Than the Government

The increased popularity of HIV prevention system PrEP on hookup apps seems like good news for gay men and for Canada's healthcare system. But the trend is highlighting a bit of a hitch: the potentially life-saving drug program is still not approved by Health Canada.

Truvada, the revolutionary drug used in the PrEP system, is sanctioned as an effective way to treat people who are already HIV-positive. Yet the drug has also proven itself as a hugely successful way to prevent transmission, prompting doctors to prescribe it as "pre-exposure prophylaxis", aka PrEP, to people who are at risk of getting HIV. Canada's federal government, however, has yet to officially recognize this very important other purpose.

But gay men have taken note and are passing the message along. On hookup apps like Grindr and Scruff, users are mentioning PrEP under their sexual preferences or even directly within their profile names. Erstwhile Grindr user Dan Snow says it's sparking a conversation, albeit one that leads to a disappointing realization for Canadians.

"It's definitely planted the seed for me to ask my doctor," says Snow, a Toronto-based digital strategist. "But my understanding is that it's hella expensive."

That's because without Health Canada's stamp of approval, PrEP can be prohibitively pricey.

Sean Hosein, editor at HIV resource website, says that in most of the country, a month's supply of the daily-dose drug can cost more than $1,000. "Every province and territory has a list of drugs they subsidize," he explains. "The Quebec government does subsidize the use of Truvada, but not the rest of Canada." La belle province's universal drug insurance plan means that insurers cannot refuse coverage of the PrEP system and so the drug is much more affordable, sometimes even free.

Since preventing HIV is not the drug's approved mandate, prescribing Truvada within the PrEP system counts as off-label use. "Because it's approved for treatment, many insurance companies can reimburse patients," Hosein says. "But some HIV negative people are saying their insurance companies stop paying once they find out the drug is being used for prevention." Snow's doctor also warned him that insurers who find out about off-label use can request a reimbursement for any amount they've covered.