Rape victims can be prevented from contracting HIV infection if a post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment is given to them after within eight hours of the sexual assault.
The life-saving treatment for victims of sexual assault is neither mandated or provided in India, due to lack of awareness, said Dr Ishwar Gilada, President of AIDS Society of India (ASI).
‘Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment prevents the spread of HIV infection in rape victims. PEP is a short term, inexpensive and an anti-retroviral treatment (ART) which can prove effective if started within eight hours of the rape incident’
"In cases of rape, along with legal aid a treatment of post-exposure prophylaxis should be immediately given to sexual assault victims. This will cut down the chances of infection to 100 percent," said Gilada.
To create public awareness on the use of PEP to prevent the spread of HIV infection in rape victims, a proactive three-day movement has been started in Mumbai from October 31. HIV clinicians and medical faculties deliberated on how to put the evidence into a policy and take swift action.
"In a country like India, we have to work hard to put an end to sexual assault incidents. But warding off the fear of HIV infection is very easy, if all are made aware of the treatment," said Gilada.
The number of sexual assault cases are on the rise in India. According to the the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics, 36,735 rape cases were reported in the country in 2014.
"In cases of rape, along with providing immediate trauma care, precaution should also be taken to ensure that the victim does not contract sexually transmitted diseases (STD), including HIV." said Gilada.
"In order to alleviate the danger of HIV infection, PEP should be administered to the victims. This is a short term, inexpensive and an anti-retroviral treatment (ART) which can prove effective if started within eight hours of the rape incident," he added.
National AIDS Research Institute's (NARI) Director In-charge and ASI's annual national conference ASICON 2015 Co-Chairman, Dr Raman Gangakhedkar said, "The latest WHO guidelines on HIV make available two key recommendations that were developed during the revision process this year, one of them being administration of PEP."
"Daily use of oral post-exposure prophylaxis is recommended as a prevention choice for people at substantial risk of HIV infection as part of combination prevention approaches," said Gangakhedkar.
"In any case of sexual assault or an accidental exposure to HIV infection, like condom rupture between two partners, this treatment would help reduce the risk by 100 per cent. More and more awareness would help to control this infection in India," he added.