Sexual assault can be an extremely traumatic experience. You may have been hurt both physically and emotionally. Feelings of anger, guilt, shame, and fear are common reactions. In addition to dealing with these strong emotions, you may also be concerned about being infected with a sexually transmitted disease or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
This brochure provides you with information about sexually transmitted diseases and available medical counseling services to help you deal with your concerns. Remember: It is not your fault. You are not alone.
Testing for STDs and HIV
If you did not get immediate medical attention after the sexual assault, get a full check up for STDs, including HIV, right away. A rape examination usually includes STD tests. If STD and HIV testing are not available, you should go to another clinic for a test as soon as possible.
Most medical clinics, hospitals, and private physicians will test for STDs and HIV. Some clinics and public hospitals will do the testing free of charge. If the case is being investigated or prosecuted by a Federal Government agency, you are entitled to testing at no cost to you. Certain requirements apply. Check with the Victim Witness Assistance Program with the investigative agency investigating your case, or the Victim Witness Assistance Program at the U.S. Attorney's Office, for details and procedures. Many STDs take several days to several months to show up. If an STD is diagnosed at an exam done right after the assault, you probably had the STD before the assault. The infection could be from past sexual contact or drug use. Talk to your health care provider about taking medicine and telling partners. If your first tests are negative, you may be able to rule out the possibility that you had an STD before the assault.
Even if your tests are negative, get tested again in 3 to 6 months. You cannot be sure if you have HIV or another STD unless you get tested at least 3 months after the assault. It can take up to 6 months after infection for antibodies to show up on a test. Victim Assistance staff can assist you in obtaining this second test at no cost to you. Your health and peace of mind are worth it!
While waiting for the test results, it is normal to feel anxious and worried. Your counselor or doctor may be able to help. During this time, you need to protect your health and your loved ones from infection.
Testing and confidentiality
It is important to be tested in a facility that offers counseling and protects your confidentiality. STD and HIV tests usually are free in public health clinics. You have the right to have up to two confidential and anonymous tests following a sexual assault that poses a risk of transmission of HIV virus or an STD. Test results are not given over the phone or sent in the mail. The nurse who drew your blood will give you the test results on your second visit and explain them to you in private.
Counseling and information
Most sexual assault crisis centers have hotlines operated by trained counselors who understand sexual assault and will talk to you confidentially. Most medical centers also provide counseling. Or, a Victim Witness Advocate from the investigative agency or U.S. Attorney's Office will help you make arrangements for counseling.
HIV testing and the perpetrator of sexual assault
A judge can order a person charged with a sexual assault to be tested for HIV if the victim requests this through the Assistant U.S. Attorney. You will be given the results; however, you are allowed to share this information ONLY with your doctor, counselor, family members, and any sexual partners you may have had after the assault. Regardless of the perpetrator's test, you still need to have your own HIV test. Even if the perpetrator has HIV, you may not have been infected during the sexual assault. If the perpetrator's HIV test is negative, the perpetrator could still have HIV. Recent infections (within 3-6 months) may not show up on his test. People with HIV can infect others at any time, even before their own blood shows signs of HIV.
What you need to know about HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases
There are many common sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), including gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, genital warts, herpes, and HIV (the AIDS virus).
Proper testing is the only way to know if you are infected.
STDs, including HIV, usually are passed through vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse. However, some STDs can be passed from skin-to-skin contact in the genital area.
An infected woman can pass HIV to her baby through breast milk.
Many STDs can be cured easily especially if they are found early.
HIV is fairly hard to get from a single sexual act.
There are only a few cases of HIV infection from sexual assault.
You are more likely to get other STDs from a single contact with an infected person.
Signs of STDs may not show up right away. Some people never notice any signs of infection. This is especially true for women.
Clinics and Support
Your private doctor can test you for HIV and other STDs or you can go to a clinic. Referral numbers that may help include the following:
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network at 800-656-4673
This provides an automatic link to your local rape crisis center.
HIV/AIDS Nightline at 800-273-2437
This service offers after hours emotional support and crisis intervention services.
Center for Disease Control National Hotline, at 800-342-2437, provides information on HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.