Assessing the feasibility of police initiation of HIV post-exposure prophylaxis for sexual violence survivors in Lusaka, Zambia

Zama, Mary T., Dennis, Mardieh, Price, Jessica, and Topp, Stephanie (2015) Assessing the feasibility of police initiation of HIV post-exposure prophylaxis for sexual violence survivors in Lusaka, Zambia. BMC Proceedings, 9 (Supplement 4). A3. pp. 1-3.

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[Extract] Globally, more than 1 in 3 women have experienced physical or sexual violence (SV) from intimate partners or SV from non-partners [1]. Furthermore, over 10% of all girls are estimated to have experienced a forced sexual act, with the highest rates of SV against girls found in sub-Saharan Africa [2].

Although public recognition of SV is growing in Zambia, reliable data on the nature and extent of such violence is limited. Approximately 20% of Zambian women aged 15 to 49 have experienced some form of sexual violence; however, this is likely underestimated due to underreporting [3]. Previous research in Zambia suggests that exposure to SV is equally pervasive among adolescent girls [4,5].

The risks associated with SV, especially among young women, are numerous. Immediate health consequences include unwanted pregnancy, physical trauma, mental distress and acquisition of HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections. The linkage between sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and risk of HIV has been well documented in Africa and is especially pronounced in countries with high HIV prevalence, such as Zambia [3,6-8].

Growing awareness of these negative consequences of SGBV led the Government of Zambia to develop a set of national guidelines for the management of SGBV, highlighting the need for a response system linking the health, police, and social services sectors. A critical component of this response is the prevention of HIV infection in SV survivors through the provision of preventive anti-retroviral therapy, or HIV post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). The initial dose of PEP must be taken within 72 hours of exposure to HIV [9].

Given the time sensitivity of PEP and the fact that police and health services are often the first points of contact for SV survivors, strong coordination between these two sectors is central to the effective medical management of SV cases in Zambia [10]. Building on the results of previous research in Zambia, which demonstrated that trained Victim Support Unit (VSU) police officers could effectively administer the emergency contraception pill to SV survivors, the Population Council, Zambia Police Service, and Ministry of Health aimed to assess the feasibility of having trained VSU police officers safely and effectively provide a PEP starter dose to SV survivors with immediate referral to comprehensive medical services [10].

Item ID: 39606
Item Type: Article (Abstract)
ISSN: 1753-6561
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© 2015 Zama et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Date Deposited: 19 Aug 2015 00:04
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1605 Policy and Administration > 160508 Health Policy @ 40%
11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111799 Public Health and Health Services not elsewhere classified @ 60%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9202 Health and Support Services > 920208 Health Inequalities @ 40%
92 HEALTH > 9202 Health and Support Services > 920299 Health and Support Services not elsewhere classified @ 60%
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