Rape and HIV Post-Exposure Prophylaxis: Addressing the Dual Epidemics in South Africa

Reprod Health Matters. 2003 Nov;11(22):101-12. doi: 10.1016/s0968-8080(03)02285-7.


In South Africa, a country notable for both a rapidly escalating AIDS epidemic and high levels of sexual violence, the issue of HIV post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) following rape has recently come to the fore, and a policy supporting provision of PEP has been approved by the national government. This paper compares the conditions for providing PEP in Europe and North America with the conditions faced by two initiatives in South Africa, one serving a primarily rural base, and one urban. It is based on a review of the literature on sexual violence in South Africa and use of PEP following occupational and non-occupational exposure. It incorporates perspectives from in-depth interviews in 2000 with 18 key informants, including survivors of sexual violence, gender and HIV activists, domestic violence NGOs, rape crisis centres, physicians, lawyers, researchers and HIV/AIDS advisors in the Department of Health. The paper argues that given the scientific evidence for PEP, and the nature of the dual epidemics of HIV and sexual violence in South Africa, the public health and social justice rationale for implementing PEP equals and indeed exceeds that put forward in industrialised countries. However, delays in accessing PEP caused by the public justice system and lack of training for service providers constitute significant obstacles to effective implementation. In this respect, provision of PEP presents an opportunity to reform and strengthen existing services for post-rape care and to link attention to the epidemic of sexual violence to HIV/AIDS prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Communicable Disease Control / methods
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Humans
  • Law Enforcement
  • Patient Compliance
  • Premedication*
  • Rape / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Control Policies
  • South Africa / epidemiology


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents