We’ve spoken before about getting the message out about preventing HIV transmission in cases of rape: it is possible, but it requires thorough education and quick action. PEPs (Post-exposure-prophylaxis) are effective if taken within 72 hours of exposure, and a complete 28 day course of PEP treatment has been shown to almost eliminate the chance of contracting HIV following exposure to the virus.
Rape victims in South Africa have the legal right to receive free PEP treatment. Unfortunately, according to a recent report published in the Mail&Guardian, many victims face severe challenges in exercising their right to free PEP treatment.
It seems that lack of information is largely to blame for this, with public officials in many cases simply failing to provide the necessary information about PEP treatments. The report found that very few calls to public health facilities yielded satisfactory information about PEPs. Similarly, information was not usually made available to victims when reporting a rape to the police.
Clearly, this is a serious problem in a country with an HIV infection rate as high as South Africa, particularly when combined with our shockingly high incidences of rape. Fortunately, there are several organizations that are stepping in and providing accessible, clear information about PEPs and other means of HIV prevention. The Aids Helpline is a good place to start for those who need information; they can be contacted, toll-free, 24 hours a day on 0800 012 322.
Prophylaxis: A right in name only [from the Mail&Guardian Online]
Image by: Gideon van der Stelt