PrEP & Coronavirus

PrEP & Coronavirus

Coronavirus pandemic has made changes to pretty much everybody’s life. It is also putting our health care under a lot of strain. COVID-19 is a new illness that affects your lungs and airways. We need to protect ourselves, and others. We need to stop it from spreading further.

Screening for STI’s might be soon reduced to let laboratories focus on tests from people who are very sick. PrEP users can still get tested regularly for time being, but situation might change, if/when corona spreads further and significant part of our our health care staff will need to take care of corona situation. Testing for STIs might be cut back if you don’t have symptoms. PrEP is still very safe and effective also with this reduced testing time.

Hivpoint will help you make informed choices that are right for you. We’ll help you continue to benefit from PrEP to prevent HIV. Or help you if you decide to take break from sex and need advice how to put PrEP on hold. If you have any questions about PrEP and coronavirus, please send us e-mail: prep(at)hivpoint.fi

Can I stop taking my daily PrEP for a while?

If you are planning to stop having sex for a while, you may wish to put daily dosing of PrEP for on hold. PrEP medication is very flexible if your circumstances change.

Before you stop, cis men* should carry on taking PrEP for another two sex-free days.

Everyone else should carry on taking PrEP for seven sex-free days. This includes when PrEP is being taken for vaginal/frontal protection.

*Cis man refers to anyone who was assigned male at birth and who still identifies as a man.

Does PrEP prevent or treat COVID-19?

The drugs used for PrEP do not prevent COVID-19. They do not work to treat COVID-19. Please do not increase your regular PrEP to prevent or treat COVID-19. Do not share your PrEP with anyone to prevent or treat COVID-19. If you get sick by coronavirus, you can safely stop taking PrEP, when there is enough time from your last sex. (see above)

Can I change from daily dosing to event-based PrEP?

Yes, but although PrEP is very flexible to change dosing – this is only for some people. It is also only if the PrEP you use is Tenofovir/emtricitabine (TDF/FTC). TDF/FTC is only option for PrEP in Finland.

Only cis men* who have sex with other men can safely change from daily dosing to event-based/on-demand PrEP.

Everyone else, including for vaginal/frontal protection, can only use daily dosing. For more information on Event Based PrEP please see: miestenkesken.fi/en/prep

Event based PrEP has not been studied using Descovy (TAF/FTC). If your current PrEP drug is Descovy, only daily dosing is recommended. Descovy (TAF/FTC) is only available at USA and from some on-line pharmacies outside Europe. TAF/FTC is not available in Finland or any other European countries (officially)

If you can use event-based PrEP, this involves:

Taking a double dose 2 to 24 hours before sex.
Taking a single pill every 24 hours, until you’ve had 2 sex free days.

For example, if you have sex once, this will involve a double dose before sex. Then a second pill after 24 and 48 hours. Total = 4 pills.

* Cis man refers to anyone who was assigned male at birth and who still identifies as a male.

Will I still be able to get my prescription for PrEP?

If you are on PrEP, you should still be able to access it. This means you should still be able to get your prescription when you need it. Please contact your local clinic if you have concerns. Please be aware that they may take longer than usual to answer or get back to you. Health care units has now hugely increased workload.

If you are on waiting list for PrEP, it might take even longer to get to the treatment than before Corona epidemic or some clinics are not even start new PrEP treatments during this epidemic. Just be patient and remember to be safe from HIV by using other safe sex strategies during waiting time for examples using condom.

Will I still be able to get my regular STI check-up during this time?

The demands the epidemic puts on laboratories means that clinics maybe cutting back on STI tests unless you have symptoms, if/and when epidemic goes further. This will let labs focus on samples from very sick patients. At the moment STI testing is working almost the same way than before corona epidemic. Only Hivpoint’s Checkpoint express clinic is closed until further notice.

How can I safely restart PrEP?

If you have not had sex since stopping, then it’s okay to start PrEP as usual. If there has been sex while you have been on PrEP break, you should get your HIV tested before re-starting PrEP. You can ask more and how to get tested by e-mail: prep@hivpoint.fi

If you have not had sex since stopping, you took enough pills (2 sex free days) after you had sex last time and you’re a cis man, you should take a double dose 2 to 24 hours before sex if you want to have sex straight away. You can then continue with either daily dosing or event-based dosing. (see above)

Everyone else should take daily doses for seven days before sex. This includes for vaginal/frontal protection.

What if I’ve stopped PrEP and have the chance to have sex?

If you have the chance to have sex, event-based/on-demand PrEP will be okay – only cis men can use this option.

If you have unprotected sex and you didn’t use PrEP, you can still use PEP. This involves using a daily combination of three HIV drugs for one month. Time to PEP access should not be affected by coronavirus, but this is difficult to predict. PEP must be started within 72 hours of the unprotected sexual intercourse.

You can find out more about PEP here: hivpoint.fi/en/hiv-and-aids-information/post-exposure-prophylaxis-hiv-pep/

 What is physical distancing?

Physical distancing is about stopping the spread of COVID-19. It is often called social distancing – but it’s better use the term physical distancing because we know it’s important to maintain social links.

Physical distancing means:

  • Avoiding contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough.
  • Avoid contact with someone who has travelled and returned to Finland within 14 days.
  • Avoiding non-essential use of public transport, varying your travel times to avoid rush hour when possible.
  • Working from home, where possible. Your employer should support you to do this.
  • Avoiding large gatherings, and gatherings in small public spaces such as pubs, cinemas, restaurants, bars and clubs (Finland will close all restaurants, pubs etc.)
  • Avoiding gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.
  • Avoiding random and casual sex hookups.
  • Using telephone or online services to contact your GP, other essential services and your friends & family.