Uganda: Medics Warned On Giving HIV Post-Exposure Drugs to Minors

Medical practitioners in the eastern districts have been warned against administering HIV Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) drugs to children below 12 years, saying it damages their liver.

Dr Andrew Katumba, a senior medical practitioner of Jinja Regional Referral Hospital, explained that PEP is a strong medication, which is usually taken for 28 days and that livers of children are not mature enough to detoxify the medication, hence damaging it.

"Children have young livers which are in the process of growing into maturity unlike adults whose livers are mature enough to perform their functions of detoxifying drugs appropriately. One of the functions of the liver is to combat the drugs swallowed into a non-toxic state ready for removal from the body via the kidney or feaces," Dr Katumba cautioned

"A young liver is not ready to carry out that function of detoxification, for example, a child of two years. Remember, drugs are poisonous if taken in bigger quantities or for a longer period."

The medic, who was speaking on Monday to a group of judicial officers and police officers from eastern region during a training on effective adjudication of sexual offences against children in Jinja, instead advised that suspected defilers of these young children be arrested and tested for HIV immediately.

This, he said, would minimise the chances of administering PEP to children defiled incase their perpetrators are HIV negative.

"That is why it's necessary to arrest the perpetrators and subject them to an HIV/Aids test and in case they are negative, there is no need of subjecting this young defiled children to PEP, which is usually taken for 28 days," he advised.

PEP means taking antiretroviral medicines (ART) after being potentially exposed to an HIV infection to prevent an infection.

Speaking at the same training, Dr Livingstone Sewanyana, the executive director of Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, said: "Most of the violations against children occur in Busoga, so I am calling upon you (judicial officers) to act."

Court cases

Equally, Justice Eva Luswata, the Jinja High Court resident judge, said sexual offences form the majority of the criminal cases they handle in the sub-region.

Dr Donald Rukare, from Freedom House organisation, cautioned judicial officers from revealing the identities of children who have been sexually abused while they write their judgments, reasoning that their decisions are records which might negatively affect them in future.

In Uganda, the effective prosecution of sexual offences, especially against children, has been hampered due to poor access to justice. Children continue to be exposed to diverse forms of sexual violence, often permissible and buttressed by cultural beliefs and practices.

Findings on sexual offences

Research by the Uganda Parliamentary Women's Association in 2005 on sexual offences Bill established that in spite of the elaborate provisions on the law prohibiting the sexual offences, the number of sex-related offences has continued to increase with rape and defilement being the most prominent.

The 2017 police crime report recorded 14,985 defilement cases and 1,335 rape cases.

A total of 4,651 cases were taken to court, of which 609 led to convictions and 3,704 cases were pending disposal.

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