Sex­ual vi­o­lence, rape drive HIV

Find­ings from 800 women star­tling

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - KERRY CUL­LI­NAN

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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