Prep’ing for PrEP in Alberta

 
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley receives a standing ovation as she announces coverage for an HIV-prevention drug during Calgary Pride. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley receives a standing ovation as she announces coverage for an HIV-prevention drug during Calgary Pride. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

By Brook Biggin - Regional Manager for the Prairie Provinces, CBRC

On October 1, 2018 Alberta Health began offering PrEP at no-cost to eligible Albertans. And while we're as excited about that as you are, what may be less clear is all of the hard work that went into making this happen. Fortunately, our CBRC Advance team members in Alberta had a front-row view.

Grassroots community activism

One of Advance's key partners, the Edmonton Men’s Health Collective (EMHC), has long advocated for increased access to PrEP, particularly for the public funding of PrEP for those who meet eligibility criteria , including gay, bi, queer, and other men who have sex with men. In its absence, the EMHC developed PrEPAlberta.ca, a website intended to help individuals learn more about PrEP, whether it is right for them, and how to navigate the complex insurance coverage pathway. The site also has a portal for healthcare providers to become more knowledgeable about assessing patients for PrEP. Since the announcement of public funding for PrEP by Alberta Health, PrEPAlberta.ca has been updated to be Alberta's primary online source of information about how to access PrEP under the new provincial program.

Stakeholder collaboration

Complex challenges require collaborative responses. Recognizing that, stakeholders from across Alberta have worked collaboratively to establish the Alberta STBBI Operational Strategy and Action Plan (OSAP). This collective impact network includes membership from across the sector, including community-based organizations, people with lived experience, healthcare providers, and policymakers - all working together to address the challenges and barriers preventing positive sexual health and well-being amongst Albertans. 

One working group within the STBBI OSAP is the PrEP Working Group, which the CBRC is a member of. Over the past several months, this working group has worked collaboratively to develop provincial PrEP guidelines - a necessary precursor to the government's ability to roll-out publicly funded PrEP. The CBRC remains involved on the PrEP Working Group and the newly formed PrEP Research and Evaluation committee to monitor the rollout of PrEP and its impact on the community.

Leveraging resources

Through CBRC's role in the Advance project, we were able to leverage some of our own resources to supplement the EMHC's great community PrEP education work and collaborate on the development of the PrEP access graphic below. Just another great example of how Advance helps enhance the great work already happening at the community level.

PrEPinAB_180925.png

But we’re not done yet! Over the coming months (and years), CBRC and the Advance project will continue its commitment to ensuring that all gay, bi, queer, and other men who have sex with men (cis or trans) and Two-Spirit people who need PrEP have access to it. This includes supporting community and service provider awareness, education, and capacity-building, assistance with monitoring and evaluating PrEP’s roll-out across Alberta, and supporting our partners in responding to emerging issues which inhibit access or uptake.