Anti-HIV programme fails rape victims
Wednesday 2 June 2004
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SOUTH AFRICA: Anti-HIV programme fails rape victims

JOHANNESBURG, 4 March (PLUSNEWS) - Human rights activists said mixed messages and government inaction are undermining South Africa's pledge to provide victims of sexual assault with drugs to help reduce their chances of HIV infection.

In a new report, "Deadly Delay: South Africa's Efforts to Prevent HIV in Survivors of Sexual Violence," Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the HIV/AIDS epidemic had turned sexual assault into a possible death sentence, but many rape victims still had little or no access to antiretroviral drugs.

In the face of an explosive HIV/AIDS epidemic, the government pledged in April 2002 to provide a course of drugs known as post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, as part of a comprehensive package of services for rape survivors. Research shows that obtaining PEP soon after the sexual assault can reduce the victim's risk of contracting HIV.

However, the government had failed to provide adequate information on or training for the programme to police, health workers, counsellors or victims, the 73-page report said.

Rebecca Schleifer, a researcher with HRW's HIV/AIDS and Human Rights Programme, said: "The South African government has taken a crucial step in recognising the importance of HIV prevention for rape survivors, but there is a deadly disconnect between the government's stated intention to provide drugs that can prevent HIV, and the reality for rape survivors who can't get them."

Factors like police inadequately responding to rape cases, neglecting to help rape survivors seek medical treatment or, in some cases, even turning them away, had further impeded access to PEP.

Sexual violence, particularly against children aged under 18, who represent an estimated 40 percent of rape victims, had reached alarming levels, the report noted.

Without urgent government action, Schleifer said, "the dual epidemics of HIV/AIDS and sexual violence will continue to claim the lives of too many South Africans".

According to HRW, more than 52,000 rapes and attempted rapes were reported to police in 2002, but the actual figure is believed to be much higher.

To read the Human Rights Watch report after March 4, 2004, see: http://hrw.org/

[ENDS]

Recent SOUTH AFRICA Reports

Government says paediatric ARVs to continue, 1/Jun/04
New challenge in achieving adherence, 20/May/04
World Bank competition for implementable, innovative projects, 18/May/04
Study of HIV risk in children sounds alarm bells, 13/May/04
SAHARA conference opens, 10/May/04

Links

The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
AEGIS
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
International HIV/AIDS Alliance

PlusNews does not take responsibility for info in links supplied.

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