An HIV test looks for HIV antibodies. HIV antibodies will only show up in the blood of the person whose immune system is trying to fight off HIV. Usually it is advised to wait a minimum of six weeks after the time a person thinks they may have been exposed to HIV to have an HIV test – it takes time for the HIV antibodies to show up on a blood test. An HIV test can’t be done without your permission, and the results are confidential.
HIV is not a death sentence! People with HIV who take daily HIV medication can live as long as anyone else. HIV medication called ART (Antiretrovirals) can be prescribed by a doctor and taken every day to “put the virus to sleep” and allow the person’s immune system to get stronger and be able to fight off infections. These days taking ART means taking fewer pills, sometimes only one pill per day, and having fewer side effects than previously. The most common side effects are nausea and diarrhea.
When a person has been diagnosed with HIV and starts taking antiretroviral medication, it is important to reduce the risk of HIV drug resistance by taking the medication every day as prescribed by a doctor. When HIV medication is taken inconsistently, the level of medication in the blood goes up and down. When this happens the virus can mutate (change form), making the HIV medication that used to control the HIV ineffective against the new, drug-resistant HIV. An occasional missed day might not make a significant difference, but if a person misses 3 days or more in a row they should contact their doctor and discuss what to do about their medication (they may have to change to a different medication).
There are two systems to obtain ARV coverage in Saskatchewan:
- The Saskatchewan Drug Plan
Various programs are available to those with Saskatchewan health care that each require registration and have different co-pays. Programs are not automatic with a Saskatchewan health card (except the children’s plan). All medications covered under the Saskatchewan Drug Plan must be listed on the Saskatchewan Drug Plan Provincial Formulary or meet criteria for Exceptional Drug Status (EDS) to qualify for reimbursement.
a. Special Support. Co-pay is a calculated percentage based on the family’s annual adjusted income. Lower co-pays are possible if the total drug costs exceed 3.4% of the adjusted family income. The lowest possible co-pay is 1% of total drug cost.
b. Children & Senior’s Plan (children under 14yrs or seniors over 65yrs with a net income of $65,515 or less) pay $20 for each prescription (or they can apply for Special Support and pay the lower of the two programs).
c. People on Supplementary Health: Saskatchewan Assistance Program [SAP]/Social Assistance or Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability [SAID]/Social Assistance, pay $2 co-pay for each prescription or no charge depending on the level of coverage and number of chronic medications.
- Non-Insured Health Benefits Plan (NIHB)
Patients who are treaty or status have no co-pays. In Saskatchewan, Truvada is available as an open benefit, not requiring prior approval unless supply requested exceeds $1000. Additionally, in Saskatchewan, lifetime approvals are granted for limited use benefit antiretrovirals vs. approval to a specific pharmacy for duration of the prescription. For those with partial private insurance, the third party insurance program will be billed after the provincial program. All ARVs listed in the chart are covered by the Saskatchewan Drug Plan, but require Exceptional Drug Status (EDS) approval where certain criteria must be met. The criteria for most ARVs are “if used for the treatment of HIV under the guidance of an Infectious Disease specialist” See formulary.drugplan.health.gov.sk.ca for more details.
The doctor prescribing medication must be either an Infectious Disease specialist, have had a discussion with a specialist, or have pre-approval status. The designated physician can have pre-approval status and does not need to call for ARV coverage approval. Any pharmacy can order and dispense antiretrovirals.