For years, victims of sexual violence have received very little support in Guatemala, and have rarely known where to look for help. Recently, some positive changes have been introduced: survivors of sexual violence are now able to receive medical attention before a crime is reported, and medical staff in public health facilities have begun to offer treatment.
In four years, the percentage of female patients seeking assistance at the Médecins Sans Frontières sexual violence treatment programme within 72 hours of being assaulted has increased from 17 to 64 per cent.
Timely treatment means patients can receive prophylactic medication to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
Médecins Sans Frontières completed the handover of its programme to the Ministry of Health in 2012, having provided 24-hour services to victims of sexual violence since 2008. Teams had worked in five locations: a health centre and two clinics on the outskirts of Guatemala City, the emergency department of the city’s general hospital, and in the Public Ministry, where assaults are reported. The provision of services in the Public Ministry means that victims of assault who seek justice can access medical care directly.
The teams provided medical, psychological and social care to nearly 4,000 patients over the course of the programme, and carried out more than 11,000 follow-up consultations.
Médecins Sans Frontières also worked to influence policies and practices, including advocating the availability of 24-hour healthcare. In 2010, the Ministry of Health adopted a national protocol on the treatment for victims of sexual violence, facilitating access to healthcare, and in 2011 asked Médecins Sans Frontières to train its staff to implement this protocol. Médecins Sans Frontières provided training for 450 health professionals in 28 healthcare facilities.
Médecins Sans Frontières first worked in Guatemala in 1984
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