HEALTH experts, information officers in Ministries of Health and journalists from nine countries in East, Central and Southern Africa are in Tanzania to deliberate and proffer solutions to health implications of gender based violence.
Countries represented at the meeting are Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Addressing participants at yesterday's meeting, Population Council head of programmes Dr Chi-Chi Undie said her organisation, in partnership with the Zambian government, was conducting surveys to establish efficient ways of mitigating health-related implications of GBV such as unwanted pregnancies and HIV/Aids.
Dr Undie said realising that the first port of call for survivors of rape is the police, they decided to evaluate the feasibility of having police officers providing emergency contraceptives as a way of avoiding unwanted pregnancies. "This study, which ran between 2006 and 2007, proved effective and the government of Zambia liked it," said Dr Undie.
"Government itself further decided to see if it is feasible to have the same officers provide treatment for victims that reduce chances of contracting HIV and Aids (also known as Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)."
Dr Undie said the study was still running and results were expected in 2013.
In most cases, including in Zimbabwe, survivors of rape end up carrying unwanted pregnancies or contracting HIV and Aids as the process of accessing PEP or legal termination of pregnancy is long and cumbersome.
Ideally, PEP should be given to a survivor within 72 hours from the time of the incident, and pregnancy termination is not recommended beyond four months.
Sexual and Reproductive Health and HIV Linkages programme co-ordinator for Zimbabwe Ms Fatima Mhuriro shared the country's experience on GBV with the participants.
Health ministers from the nine countries are expected to meet from tomorrow until Friday to look at recommendations made by the health experts from this and previous meetings for implementation.
Health and Child Welfare Minister Dr Henry Madzorera has since arrived in Arusha and will be taking part in the ministers' deliberations.