Rape Crisis

SEXUAL HEALTH AND HIV

It might be very difficult to think about straight away but if you've been raped pregnancy and/or contracting a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) are both possibilities.

 

STIs can be caught by vaginal, genital, anal or oral sexual contact with someone who has the infection. If you catch an STI as a result of your experience, it is because the rapist or attacker has one. Contracting an STI from being raped or sexually assaulted has nothing to do with whether or not you've had sex before or how many times or with how many people. It is not your fault and it is nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about.

 

Some STIs don't have obvious symptoms and are not easily picked up without a medical check-up. It is therefore important that you get tested as soon as possible and don't wait for symptoms to appear. Most STIs can be treated easily and effectively. If some STIs are left undiagnosed and untreated for a long time, however, they can cause complications and serious illness.

 

When STIs do have noticeable symptoms, they can often be quite similar for different infections and can include: pain on passing urine; unusual vaginal discharge; lower abdominal pain; pain in your pelvis; itching; soreness; painful lumps or warts in/on the genital area. You can find more information about the different STIs, their symptoms and treatments, on the NHS Choices website.

 

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) can be transmitted through the transfer of bodily fluids including blood, semen and vaginal fluid. This means HIV infection might be a risk if you've been raped vaginally, anally or orally and particularly if you were physically injured during the attack.

 

There is a course of medication called PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) that can be used to prevent contracting HIV as a result of rape and can be taken by women and men. It is important to take this medication as early as possible after an assault and within 72 hours at the most. A full course of PEP medication lasts for 28 days. PEP needs to be prescribed and is not freely available. PEP has many unpleasant side effects and taking PEP also means that regular monitoring and tests are vital.

 

If you visit a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) they should offer you tests for pregnancy and STIs there, as well as discussing the risks of HIV infection, testing and PEP and its side effects.

 

If you have not been to a SARC, you can visit your local family planning, sexual health or Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinic for routine testing for all STIs. You do not need to tell them what happened unless you want to and you do not even need to give them your real name. The services are free and confidential. If any of your tests are positive for STIs, the clinic will provide you with the right treatment.

 

Find more information about what to expect when visiting a sexual health clinic here.

 

Find details of your nearest sexual health services here.

 

You can also have these tests done by your GP / local doctor but they have to record the test and the result in your medical records.

 

If possible, try to attend any follow-up appointments at your clinic or doctor's practice for test results. Some results can be given over the phone, but some, such as HIV, will usually only be offered to you in person.