The Star Early Edition
Sexual violence, rape drive HIV
Findings from 800 women startling
SEXUAL violence plays a significant role in HIV infection and depression, according to groundbreaking research with women living in Rustenburg.
One in five HIV infections is caused by rape, while onethird of the women suffering from depression had experienced rape or violence from their partners, according to the study.
The research, conducted by humanitarian organisation Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), involved a sample of 800 women. From this group, MSF estimates that around 6 765 HIV infections and 5 022 depressions have their roots in sexual violence. In addition, about one-third of women seeking abortions – about 1 296 – did so because they had fallen pregnant after being raped.
These startling findings were presented this week at a conference on retroviruses and opportunistic infections in Seattle, US.
“Opportunities are missed each day to prevent HIV infection, psychological trauma and unwanted pregnancy for victims of sexual violence on the platinum mining belt because there are too few health facilities with the capacity to provide essential care,” according to MSF epidemiologist SarahJane Steele.
As South Africa finalises its next five-year National Strategic Plan (NSP) on HIV, TB and STIs (2017-2022), MSF is calling for the inclusion of “ambitious targets for increasing sexual violence survivors access to medical and psychosocial services at health facilities”. Key interventions include providing ARVs as post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV, trauma counselling, emergency contraception, first aid and the option of forensic examination. “It is not unrealistic to expect, at a minimum, that every sub-district in the country has a health centre that can provide an essential package of care,” Steele said. Alongside greater access to services, there was also a need for health promotion within communities.