In a surprise announcement Saturday, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said the province will begin to offer free prescriptions of a groundbreaking HIV-prevention drug this fall.

As of Oct. 1, Alberta will provide universal coverage of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, commonly referred to as PrEP, a drug that is more than 90 per cent effective in preventing HIV infection if taken daily.

“Community health advocates in general have been asking us to move forward (on this),” said Notley on Saturday.

Nearly seven people in 100,000 in Alberta are infected with HIV, which can lead to AIDS, according to 2016 data.

“This is huge,” said Nolan Hill, a specialist in gay men’s health. “This is something in many communities… have been waiting for.”

Alberta joins a growing list of provinces, including Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Ontario, in providing coverage for the $250 monthly cost of a PrEP prescription.

With a report from CTV Calgary’s Brad MacLeod