South African Public Health System Does Not Provide Post-Exposure Treatment to Prevent HIV Infection to Rape Victims, New York Times Series Reports
South African women who are raped do not have access to post-exposure treatment with antiretroviral drugs to prevent HIV infection and often do not know the HIV status of the rapist, the New York Times reports in today's installment of its "Death and Denial" series about AIDS in Hlabisa, South Africa. Dr. Steve Gericke, a private practitioner with a clinic in Mtubatuba, said that "rape by an HIV positive man is a death sentence" and "treatment is not available." The "best medical response" to HIV exposure from rape or a needlestick is a month's dosage of three antiretroviral drugs, which costs about $500 in the KwaZulu-Natal province, the Times reports. The "next-best choice" is a "starter pack" -- three days' worth of two drugs that costs about $35. But Gericke said that even if the drugs were available cost-free, young women often would not get them in time. Clinics like Gericke's keep the kits in their offices in case staff are exposed through needlesticks, but they "cannot afford to give them" to rape victims (McNeil, New York Times, 11/30).
Nigeria Will Buy Generic Drugs for AIDS Treatment Trial
In an accompanying article, the Times reports that Nigeria next month will begin a trial program to provide generic antiretroviral drugs to citizens "at a fraction of the cost of Western-produced drugs." Nigeria will import the drugs from Indian drug makers Cipla and Rambazy. The government will begin treatment at 18 centers across the country with a "limited number" of patients for the first three months and then "gradually expand" the plan to include 100 centers and 10,000 patients in the first year, a figure "scaled back" from initial estimates of 15,000 patients, which was "thought to be too ambitious" (McNeil, New York Times, 11/30). Both of the Times articles, in addition to the previous articles in the series, are available online at nytimes.com/international.