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.

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