Original Research

Prevalence of HIV among victims of sexual assault who were mentally impaired children (5 to 18 years) in the Mthatha area of South Africa

Banwari L. Meel
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 1, No 1 | a5 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v1i1.5 | © 2009 Banwari L. Meel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 November 2008 | Published: 14 April 2009

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Banwari L. Meel, Walter Sisulu University, South Africa

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Background: Protection of children has been identified as a priority in South Africa. Despite a commitment to uphold children’s rights, much still needs to be done for the safety of mentally impaired children.

Method: This is a record review of attendees at the Sinawe Centre from 2001 to 2005. It is the only centre in the Mthatha area that provides care for sexually assaulted persons and it is affiliated to the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital. All mentally impaired victims of sexual assault were recorded on the register.

Results: During the study period, 1,268 individuals, of whom 32 were profoundly mentally impaired, attended the Sinawe Centre following sexual assault. Of these mentally impaired individuals, 28 (87.5%) were below the age of 18 years. Two were males while the rest were females, giving a male to female ratio of 1:15. A close relative was implicated in 29 (90.6%) of the cases. Among the victims were six (18.7%) epileptics who were on treatment. One was 13 years old and pregnant. Four were HIV positive on screening.

Conclusion: Over 2% of the sexual assault victims attending the Sinawe Centre were mentally impaired. Of these, 12.5% were HIV seropositive.


HIV; sexual assaults; child abuse; mental impairment; sexual violence


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