An in-depth investigation of the experience of sexual assault and factors that determine non-adherence to post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) after sexual assault in a sample of raped women survivors attending a public health clinic in the Eastern Cape.
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Prevention of HIV following sexual assault is an important aspect of rape care. This includes taking Post Exposure Prophylaxis for 28 days. The present study aimed to provide an in-depth understanding of social and environmental factors that predisposed, promoted and also served as barriers to adherence to post exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV infection after sexual assault in women in the Eastern Cape Province. The study involved a purposive sample of women who were offered Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) after a sexual assault. Sixteen women were accessed at the Sinawe Referral Centre and participated in the study. Their ages ranged from 16 to 73 years. An interview guide was developed to assist the researcher, and semistructured, in-depth interviews were used to collect data. These women were interviewed at the end of 28 days of taking the prophylactic medication. The data were analyzed inductively using grounded theory. Only three women completed the 28 days of PEP treatment. Participants gave different explanations for why they did not complete the treatment with only four participants returning to the centre for their medication. Some reported having no money for transport; others mentioned deciding to discontinue the medication because of its side-effects. Poor support systems, both within the community and the health services, including the provision of conflicting information also played a role. The study showed that few women were able to complete their PEP medication and knowledge about the service and access to it were the main factors that lead to non-adherence. There is an urgent need for the improvement of PEP services particular in the support to the women during the period of taking the PEP treatment to ensure protection from HIV after a sexual assault.