On the eve of World Aids Day, both Mumbai District Aids Control Society (MDACS) and Maharashtra State Aids Control Society (MSACS) declared that the state has seen a considerable reduction in Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) positive cases this year.
However on the other hand, doctors from AIDS Society of India, hospitals and NGOs based in the city have expressed an urgent need for the Centre and the State government to renew the guidelines on the use of a preventive drug that can stave off HIV infection. They demand that the new guidelines should approve the administration of Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) drugs to rape victims to prevent them from contracting HIV.
For a 'red' cause: Students of People’s Education Society English High School, Thane (E), assemble on the school ground to form the shape of a giant red ribbon and hold up placards to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS on the eve on World AIDS Day yesterday. Pic/Sameer Markande
Though the government had sanctioned the use of PEP drugs for professional use, so far there have been no guidelines to extend the use of these drugs for preventing rape victims from contracting HIV. On the occasion of World Aids Day, doctors from the AIDS Society of India have put forward their urge to persuade the government to sanction new guidelines for PEP drug usage.
PEP treatment has been standard procedure since 1996 globally for healthcare workers exposed to HIV. Medical workers take this drug after accidental exposure to HIV infected blood.
Dr I S Gilada, president, AIDS Society of India, said, “When the PEP drug can be used for occupational exposure, why not use it for rape victims? HIV can be contracted through mediums like rape and accidental sexual exposure. By the time the results of HIV tests arrive, it is too late for the victim. Therefore, it is very essential that the victim is given PEP treatment the moment they arrive at a police station to file a complaint.”
With the number of rape cases rising in the city, the need for awareness about PEP is ever increasing. When MiD DAY spoke to experts and NGOs working on AIDS awareness, they expressed the common need for awareness among the masses about the advantages and importance of PEP.
Though there is a significant decrease in the detection of HIV cases in the state, awareness about PEP could prevent new cases of HIV infection. Concerns add up as the gestation period for HIV is three to six months, and hence, when immediately tested, the victim may prove to be negative but later on turn positive.
Dr Sridhar M Patil, surgeon, Nagpada police hospital said, “We receive one to two rape cases daily at our hospital. Though PEP was introduced several years ago, we still do not prescribe the drug to rape victims. PEP drug should be provided to rape victims within hours of them getting exposed to HIV. We are waiting for new guidelines to be passed by the government, thereby empowering us to provide this drug to rape victims,” he said.
What is PEP?
Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) refers to taking Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) as early as possible after exposure to HIV to prevent infection. This drug is available at all public hospitals. PEP according to experts, should begin as soon as possible after exposure, but certainly within 72 hours. Treatment with two or three ARVs for four weeks ideal to complete the course.