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Uganda treats rape victims to prevent HIV

As the world marks World Aids Day today, a clinic in Uganda tells how it has been treating women who have been raped with drugs to prevent them getting HIV.

Kawala Health Centre in the capital, Kampala has been working with a domestic violence support body so that women who have been raped can get access to post-exposure prophylaxis – or PEP.

"Before our collaboration, the staff at the clinic, including me, did not really understand the issues around sexual violence or how critical it is to provide treatment and forensic examination as quickly as possible,” said medical clinical officer, Rwechungura Gerevas.

"Now we treat injuries, provide medication and refer cases to the police,” he told i newspaper. “The number of women coming into the clinic for this support is increasing every day. It has made me understand the extent of the problem, and taught me to prioritise treating women who have been through this ordeal.

At least, as a clinical officer, I can offer them the opportunity to avoid living with HIV."

The east African country has one of the highest incidences of rape in sub-Saharan Africa – every year as many as 15 per cent of girls and women aged from five to 49 are raped and thousands get infected with HIV.

Over the past 10 years Uganda has been held up on the world stage as a model country in its work to fight against HIV/Aids. It has brought its infection rate down to a national average of 6.4 per cent today from about 30 per cent in the early 1990s. But this success is not evenly spread across the country, warns Aids charity, Avert. Some parts of north Uganda still have HIV infection rates as high as 11.9 per cent, mostly among women.

The 20 year war in northern Uganda between government and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) made 1.5 million people homeless and killed thousands. Women trapped between government soldiers and the rebels in the war-torn north have borne the brunt of the HIV/Aids more than women in the rest of the country. Girls as young as 3 years old and women of all ages have been raped over and over again. The rebels are well known for child kidnapping for use as child soldiers and the abduction of girls as sex slaves.

Rape is the least reported sexual offence in Uganda and the Ugandan law still does not recognise marital rape. Among the cases that do get reported, about half are prosecuted, according to figures from Interpresse News Service, and very few carry penalties.

Hayley attribution