PrEP – Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis for HIV
Page last reviewed 26.10.2022
What is PrEP?
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a medicine that can be taken as HIV prevention prior to exposure to the virus. It is used by HIV negative people to prevent infection. When used correctly, PrEP effectively prevents HIV infection through sexual contact between men, heterosexual sex and injection drug use. The World Health Organization (WHO), and other global health entities, recommend the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis as a prevention method for people with the highest HIV risk.
Who is it for?
PrEP is recommended for people who do not have HIV but have a high risk of getting HIV. For men having sex with men, this includes HIV-negative men who are sexually active with multiple sexual partners. Additionally they have anal sex and do not use a condom during every intercourse. Recent sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis are also indications for PrEP use.
You do not need to use the pre-exposure prophylaxis if your partner is HIV positive on HIV medication and their viral load is undetectable. A person living with HIV does not transmit the virus even during unprotected sex, when they are on HIV medication and their viral load is undetectable.
How is PrEP used?
The WHO recommends taking one pill every day at the same time. The medication is generally quite well tolerated and it does not have many serious side effects. Men having sex with men can also use the medicine on event basis (“on demand”). Read more about this method here >>
How can I get PrEP in Finland?
The National Institute for Health and Welfare released national guidelines for PrEP on 17 April 2019. You can find the guidelines (in Finnish) here. The health care professional involved in organizing the PrEP treatment should have knowledge of HIV, STIs and sexual behavior. They do not have to be HIV specialists. Just in case, you can print and bring the basics of PrEP leaflet to your appointment as background information. In the public healthcare system, for example infectious disease and STI policlinics can prescribe PrEP. Generic PrEP medicines entered the Finnish market in the summer 2019. PrEP counseling, treatment and medicines (from 1st of July 2021) are provided free of charge by the Finnish national health service.
With this change in July, those who have access to Finnish public health care system will get PrEP for free prescribed by a doctor from Finnish public health care. Unfortunately the waiting period to start PrEP treatment is a year at HUS (Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa) area. (Situation October 2022). Those who start PrEP treatment at private health care clinics will pay for follow up visits, laboratory tests and the medicines themselves. In this case, it is some situation possible to get more affordable PrEP by asking your doctor here in Finland for an EU prescription and buying the medicine from abroad (within the EU) with that prescription. In Finland the lowest price for 30 tablets is now around 50 euros. (Situation October 2022)
It is important to test kidney function (creatine test), do an HIV test and test for other STIs before starting the medication. Before starting PrEP, it is very important to be sure that you do not have HIV. A recent HIV infection shows up in the tests 4-12 weeks from transmission, so you should avoid high risk situations during that time. After starting the medication, regular laboratory tests including HIV and other STI testing every three months is essential. First HIV test after starting PrEP should take after one month. PrEP should always be used under medical supervision.
More up-to-date information about PrEP, buying it from abroad and the generic medications here in Finnish >>
If you need info about PrEP or a referral to PrEP treatment please contact: prep(at)hivpoint.fi. We will reply to your e-mail within a week.