Post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV (PEP)
What is PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis)?
PEP is a medication that effectively prevents HIV infection when taken within 72 hours of potential exposure to HIV. The national guidelines for PEP for non-work related HIV risk was published in 2018. The guidelines (in Finnish) can be found here.
Non-work related HIV risk
A doctor can prescribe PEP after situations where you have an elevated HIV risk. One of these situations include unprotected anal intercourse between men. The PEP medication has to be started within 72 hours of the unprotected sexual intercourse. The earlier the medication is started the better it protects against HIV. Any doctor can determine the need for PEP after which a referral is made to a doctor specialized in infectious diseases. If you have had a high risk situation, contact your health center or emergency health center.
Work related exposure to blood
If you have a work related exposure to blood, contact your occupational healthcare provider, who can provide you with PEP if needed based on a needs assessment.
How is it used?
Before starting the PEP medication, you will be tested for HIV to make sure you are not HIV positive already. PEP medication is taken as a 28 day course. An HIV test is conducted both right after the 28 days and four months after the exposure to HIV.
Undetectable = Untransmittable
An HIV positive person who is on medication does not transmit HIV when the virus level is undetectable. Not even through unprotected sex.
Travel related HIV
Approximately half of HIV infections among Finnish people are travel related. The prevalence of HIV is significantly higher in many travel destinations than it is in Finland. Finnish people have been infected with HIV in Subsaharan Africa, Thailand, Estonia and Russia, as well as European countries such as Germany and Spain. In some countries, such as Thailand, it is possible to access PEP medication with a prescription in private hospitals.
Partners of injecting drug users
The prevalence of HIV among Finnish injecting drug users is very low, less than one percent. If you have a sexual partner who is a foreign injecting drug user, your HIV risk increases.