The Delhi Commission For Women (DCW) has recommended hospitals to conduct mandatory HIV tests of sexual assault survivors on their first visit. The recommendations come in the backdrop of the panel learning that several hospitals were not conducting HIV tests of all sexual assault survivors.
The DCW had issued a notice to the national capital government’s health department seeking information regarding the number of cases in which HIV tests were conducted for survivors and the accused and the steps and Standard operating procedures (SOPs) being followed to prevent transmission of HIV in survivors.
As per the data received, it was observed that several hospitals were not recommending HIV tests to all sexual assault survivors, the panel said. The panel cited the example of Deep Chand Bandhu Hospital, which reported that of the 180 medico-legal examinations conducted on survivors, HIV tests were done in only a few cases.
“Hospitals like Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital and Rao Tula Ram Hospital do not even maintain data pertaining to HIV tests of rape survivors. Furthermore, follow-up HIV testing and counselling, which must be done after three and six months, is not being done for most survivors and neither is the data for the same being maintained by hospitals,” the panel said.
It also claimed that the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Rao Tula Ram Hospital, and Jag Pravesh Chandra Hospital said they had no data available on follow-up tests for survivors. Only two hospitals, Acharya Shree Bhikshu Govt Hospital and Guru Gobind Singh Government Hospital from the west district, have informed that Delhi Police provided them information regarding the HIV status of the accused, the DCW said.
The women’s panel also said the Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre (ICTC) functioned only from 9 am to 4 pm, forcing many survivors to return the day after the incident for HIV tests. “Many hospitals reported a lack of SOPs being followed to maintain confidentiality of the survivors’ identities and HIV test results,” it noted.
The panel further alleged that many hospitals did not maintain data on administration of Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), the first line of defence against HIV. The DCW has recommended that the government and police must ensure immediate preventive care and treatment of HIV for survivors of sexual assault.
“The commission has recommended that all hospitals should mandatorily ensure HIV testing of sexual assault survivors, at the first visit as well as at follow up visits at three and six months,” it added.
The panel also advised hospitals to maintain data of HIV testing cards for all survivors. The Delhi Police has been recommended to follow Standing Order No. 303 of 2019, which instructs investigating and supervisory officers to ensure that the medical examination of the accused includes examination of STD/STI.
The commission also recommended to the police that the HIV positive status of the accused be communicated to hospitals and survivors in all districts. The panel has recommended to the health department to keep ICTCs open 24×7 with adequate personnel and that all records of PEP administration to survivors be maintained in a proper format by hospitals.
The recommendations have been sent to the health department, Delhi government and Delhi Police and an Action Taken Report sought within 30 days. “An eight-year-old girl was brutally raped in the capital. The accused who raped her was HIV positive. Unfortunately, the girl also contracted the virus. A strong and robust mechanism to ensure proper preventive care and treatment of sexual assault survivors for HIV is therefore the need of the hour,” said DCW chief Swati Maliwal.