South Carolina Initiative Provides HIV Medications, Follow-Up Treatment to Sexual Assault Survivors
Two not-for-profit groups in South Carolina have launched an initiative to provide sexual assault survivors in three counties with post-exposure prophylaxis medications and follow-up care in an effort to prevent the spread of HIV, the Myrtle Beach Sun-News reports. The partnership is between Careteam -- a group that serves families and individuals affected by HIV/AIDS in Horry, Georgetown and Williamsburg counties -- and the Rape Crisis Center.
According to officials, most insurance companies do not cover the cost of PEP medications and women cannot afford to pay for them out of pocket. "One of the issues with rape victims who don't know their assailants is that they are at high risk of exposure to HIV," Careteam Executive Director Johanna Haynes said, adding, "The medication is not easy to take, and it is not affordable for women. You have women walk out with the prescription but never get it filled." PEP medications cost $1,200 for a 28-day supply, Haynes said, adding that money from fundraisers is used to purchase the drugs because federal and other grants Careteam receives do not cover their cost. Careteam also provides support during PEP treatment and follow-up HIV testing. The partnership formed six weeks ago and has purchased medications for two of the three women Careteam has assisted in that time period.
According to the Rape Crisis Center, 246 people in Horry and Georgetown counties, predominantly women, have been survivors of assault by strangers over the past three years. Rape Crisis Center data also indicate that 898 people were assaulted by people they knew within the same time frame. Joyce Hart, Rape Crisis Center's director, said that all assault survivors "have a right to receive treatment" and that the initiative will help ensure "women are not just getting (the medication), but follow-up care as well" (Frost, Myrtle Beach Sun-News, 8/18).