The Gauteng Department of Health launched a clinical forensic medical services facility during 16 days of activism in Bekkersdal on Monday.
“The opening of the Bekkersdal clinical forensic medical services facility will increase the department’s capacity in the provision of clinical medico-legal services that are provided to meet the health needs of patients and support the criminal justice system,” spokesperson Kwara Kekana said in a statement.
“These very specialised services cut across all levels of healthcare service delivery, the provision of healthcare to patients of sexual assault and domestic and other violence is a priority for the department,” Kekana added.
The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children campaign, which runs until December 10, was launched in Limpopo on November 25.
“The campaign forms the centre point of government’s comprehensive 365 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children. At the end of the campaign on December 10, 2019, the government will officially launch the 365 Days Behavioural Change campaign,” according to SA Government.
The department has noted that domestic and gender-based violence are some of the contexts within which HIV transmission, and non-adherence to treatment take place.
“Many women and girls remain are afraid to test and take anti-retroviral treatment because of their partners and families who use shaming tactics to bully and deter them from prioritising their own health, at a cost not only to themselves, but also of the nation,” Kekana explained.
Considering this stark reality in South Africa, members of the public are encouraged to go to the nearest health facility – preferably within 72 hours – for assault or rape where they will be treated and be given post-exposure prophylaxis.
“Post-exposure prophylaxis is treatment that is given to patients of sexual assault and rape to reduce their risk of contracting HIV. If someone has been sexually assaulted or raped, and the HIV status of the attacker is unknown, the survivor is treated as though the attacker is HIV positive.
“This helps to ensure that all possible precautions are taken to reduce the chances of HIV being passed on to the survivor,” Kekana said.