Rape survivors and the provision of HIV post-exposure prophylaxis
The original publication is available at http://www.samj.org.za
To the Editor: Rape and HIV/AIDS are two scourges of epidemic proportion in South Africa, which is known for high levels of sexual violence and one of the fastest-growing HIV epidemics in the world. While the link between rape and long-term physical and mental health problems is well established, the vast majority of rapes go unreported and only a small proportion of women attend health care services after rape, with many believing that their actions will not lead to punishment for the perpetrator. Another factor that may worsen matters even further is the latest version of the original bill on sexual offences (Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Amendment Bill) passed in 2003. The latest version of the Bill states that the provision of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is dependent on the ‘victim’ laying a charge. This is likely to have a major negative impact on rape survivors receiving PEP within 72 hours and may impede the ability of medical and police officials to obtain medical evidence that is crucial for the successful prosecution of the perpetrator.