• Adverse side effects of medicines and lack of good psych-social support cited as major causes of the survivors discontinuing PEP
• Out of 720 rape victims between January and August, only 176 sought treatment on time while barely 40 completed PEP
Health officials in Kilifi are concerned that only a few rape survivors complete their post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment.
Out of 720 reported rape cases between January and August this year, only 43 victims completed PEP, county sexual and reproductive health coordinator Kennedy Miriti told the Star on Friday.
“This is worrying. We normally give them second-line medicine which is very strong. When someone is introduced to PEP and then stops taking the drug before the stipulated time she may develop resistance to antiretroviral drugs when she gets HIV,” Miriti said.
The purpose of PEP (short-term treatment after high-risk exposure to an infectious agent, such as HIV and hepatitis B virus) is to reduce the risk of infection.
Miriti is also concerned that most rape survivors do not seek medical attention on time.
“If you look at the 720 cases, only 176 visited health facilities on time – within 72 hours after the incident. It is good to visit health facilities on time because apart from PEP, we give emergency contraceptives to the survivors and also offer them psycho-social support throughout the PEP period.
He cited adverse side effects of the medicine and lack of good psych-social support as the major causes of the survivors discontinuing PEP.
“These medicines are very strong and have side effects. Two tablets must be taken daily for 28 days. We give them half a dose and ask them to come back for the other dose so that we can follow up on their progress. Those who do not complete the programme miss out on the psycho-social support,” Miriti said.
On Thursday, the county Health executive, Anisa Omar, said a significant number of 17,000 teenage girls who became pregnant last year are HIV positive.
Anisa was speaking during the launch of WIMA, a women group's initiative that will champion children rights and fight teen pregnancies.
The county reported 127 rape cases in January, with 22 survivors started on PEP. Out of the 22, only 10 completed PEP. None of them conceived.
Thirty out of the 114 rape cases reported in February, only 30 of the survivors visited health facilities. One missed out on PEP. Of the 10 who completed the 28- day PEP dose, six were pregnant.
March had 110 cases. Two became pregnant, 21 were started on PEP and only six completed the dosage.
Out of the 76 cases recorded in April, one became pregnant. Fifteen were started on PEP and seven completed.
There was a marked reduction of rape cases in May – 42. None became pregnant while eight were started on PEP.
There were 80 recorded cases in both June and July. Five survivors turned positive for pregnancy in June and two in July. 17 were started on PEP in June and 15 in July. In July only four completed PEP while June six completed.
In August. 91 cases were reported with 12 survivors put on PEP.