May 1, 2013
The Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN) reports it will provide free post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to gay men who may have been exposed to HIV through consensual sex. The project also will offer gay men counseling during PEP and after HIV testing. OHTN, funded primarily by Ontario's government, is contributing $51,000 toward the project.
OHTN's project partners include Ottawa Public Health, the AIDS Committee of Ottawa, and the Ottawa Hospital. By siting the project at the local level in the Centretown Community Health Centre's Gay Zone and the city-run Sexual Health Centre, the partners aim to increase accessibility and raise awareness of PEP among gay men.
Prior to the PEP program, gay men who had consensual sex had to go to the local hospital and pay out of pocket for PEP, which costs between $1,000$1,500. Victims of sexual assault already receive subsidized PEP, and insurance covers healthcare workers exposed to HIV through work. University of Ottawa project leader Dr. Patrick O'Byrne stated that the risk of acquiring HIV through accidental needle stick or sexual assault is remote compared to the risk of acquiring HIV from consensual gay sex. PEP should begin the sooner the better, according to Byrne, and must start within 72 hours of exposure to be effective.
O'Bryne estimated that two to four men will take advantage of the program each month. The project partners will evaluate the success of the project based on the number of people who access treatment through the community-based locations.