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Helsinki intravenous drug users in grip of HIV epidemic, support centre says

There has been a significant increase in the number of drug users contracting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) over the past three years, the Hivpoint organisation says.

Photo shows HIV medication in a plastic container.
HIV medication can keep the infected person healthy and also prevent the virus from spreading to others. File photo. Image: Ville Välimäki / Yle
Yle News

The Helsinki region is seeing a HIV epidemic among intravenous drug users, support centre Hivpoint said in a press release issued on Wednesday.

Over the past three years, the organisation has detected several dozen HIV infections among intravenous drug users. In the seven years prior to 2020, a total of just six similar cases were found.

The cited increase in infections backs up figures released by Finland's pubic health authority THL late last year, which found that 241 cases were detected in 2022, up from 152 in 2021.

Hivpoint said that the early detection of such a high number of infections suggests that the epidemic is currently ongoing.

The organisation further noted that HIV testing rates among drug users have declined in recent years, adding that testing needs to be stepped up if authorities are to get a handle on the burgeoning epidemic.

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus and is a virus that attacks the body's immune system. If left untreated, it can lead to the patient contracting AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

However, HIV medication can keep the infected person healthy and also prevent the virus from spreading to others.

HIV is transmitted in a number of different ways, but most commonly through unprotected sex or via the sharing of needles and syringes.

Yle News' All Points North podcast explored why someone seeking emergency HIV prevention medication said he was turned away from a hospital's Emergency Department. Listen here.

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