Rape‚ and intimate partner violence exact heavy toll on SA platinum belt

One in five HIV infections and one in three cases of depression among women in Rustenburg are attributed to rape and intimate-partner violence.

The findings come from research by Doctors Without Borders (MSF)‚ recently presented in Seattle‚ US‚ at the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections.

The research follows from an in-depth 2015 survey MSF conducted among more than 800 women “living in communities along the mining belt where the health consequences of sexual violence remain largely unaddressed and demand urgent action”.

Access to a woman's body is not a male birthrightAbout a week ago, the University of the Witwatersrand announced it had dismissed a law professor and registered him on the sexual offences registry after months of investigations into sexual harassment. 

“New analysis of data [details] the extent of sexual violence in the Rustenburg area indicates that one in five HIV infections (approximately 6 765 of all female cases) and one in three cases of depression among women (5 022 cases) are attributable to rape and intimate-partner violence (IPV)‚ while one in three women inducing abortion (1 296 cases) was pregnant as a result of sexual violence‚” MSF said in a statement.

MSF says some women would not have to suffer as severely if they had access to basic health care services.

“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‚” said MSF’s Epidemiologist Sarah-Jane Steele.

MSF is calling for interventions including providing post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections‚ psychosocial support including trauma counselling‚ emergency contraception‚ other basic medical services such as 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 to mitigate the consequences of rape and other sexual violence‚” Steele said .

The organisation has also identified a need for health promotion within communities‚ as it claims half of the women it surveyed in 2015 did not know that HIV could be prevented after rape if PEP was received within 72 hours.