South Africa: Pupils Put on HIV PEP After Classmate Nicks Them with Needles

Students in a South African school are receiving antiretroviral drugs after a pupil pricked their classmates with syringes.

According to the spokesperson of the Department of Education in Gauteng, Mr. Steve Mabona, the Grade 4 pupil brought the syringes to school, gave them to her two friends and they all went on to inject other pupils. Approximately 28 pupils were pricked by the girls. The school then informed their parents and directed them to take the children to hospital for immediate medical checkups.

The family of the said pupil reported that the girl had mistakenly carried her sister’s bag to school only to realise in class that the bag had needles.

Emergency PEP

The affected pupils were then put on emergency HIV post exposure prophylaxis (PEP), a HIV prevention drug administered after a possible exposure to the virus.

Unfortunately some of the pupils suffered from severe side effects from the drug including serious vomiting and running stomachs.

HIV PEP is an antiretroviral (ARV) treatment taken for 28 days only to reduce the chances of acquiring HIV after being exposed to the virus. PEP is accessible at health centres and clinics in South Africa and is slowly becoming a standard preventive course for people exposed to the virus. PEP is given to health workers who get exposed to bodily fluids and blood during work, victims of sexual assault or rape, consensual sexual intercourse with an HIV+ partner and people exposed through syringes as with the case with the pupils.

PEP should be taken immediately after exposure and continuously for 28 days for it to be effective. If taken before 72 hours over post exposure and for the entire 28 days without fail, PEP can reduce HIV infection risk by more than 80%.

The drug has been reported to have side effects including headaches, fatigue, vomiting diarrhoea and nausea. Some of them can be quite severe causing about 1 in every 5 people to give up the treatment before the course is over.

South Africa has the highest HIV prevalence in the world, with an about 7.1 million people living with HIV the virus as of 2016. More than 360,000 of these are children aged between 0 and 14 years.

Syringes Being Tested

Mabona stated that the syringes used to inject the pupils were taken to a laboratory for tests. He added that the affected pupils and their parents would also receive counselling and would continue until they are back to school.

A disciplinary process had been started against the pupils who injected their fellow pupils. The girl who had brought the syringes to school would additionally face investigations by the police.

Several parents had also joined together and opened a negligence case against the family of the girl who carried the needles to school.

Mr Mabona urged parents to be very cautious about what their children are up to and be proactive in ensuring that they do not get access to such harmful tools.

He termed the incident as very unfortunate and assured parents of the affected pupils that his department would take every precautionary measure to ensure they remained safe.

Get Access to HIV PEP from Shim Clinic

If you think you have been exposed to the HIV virus either through an unsafe sexual encounter or other ways that the virus could transmitted, please do call or visit our STD clinic to get treated straight away with HIV PEP.

Source: The Times Live, September 2017