A man has said he was denied post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for HIV at a Melbourne hospital after he was sexually assaulted.

The Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) has denied any allegations of misconduct, and said they gave the patient appropriate treatment and care.

PEP is an antiretroviral medication that can prevent transmission of HIV, but it must be started as soon as possible and within 72 hours of the exposure.

The man, who asked us to refrain from using his name, first presented to the emergency department of the RMH earlier this month, and was kept in the hospital for four days.

He was worried about possible HIV exposure after being raped on a date.

He said he asked hospital staff six times for PEP during his stay but it was never supplied.

“They wouldn’t let me out of hospital, so I couldn’t go and seek PEP from another hospital,” he told Star Observer.

“They wouldn’t give me a clear answer on whether they were going to give [PEP] to me. They took bloods and said another department was going to make the decision.”

The 72-hour window to start PEP passed before the man was given access to the medication.

“By the time they made their decision… it was too late,” he said.

The man said one doctor he dealt with was uninformed about HIV and gay issues, to the point that he as a patient “had to explain gay sex” to him.

He described the experience as “a nightmare”.

“The whole thing’s a disgrace,” he said.

The man must now wait until the 12-week window period has elapsed before he can be tested for HIV.

He said he has contacted Maurice Blackburn Lawyers for legal advice and the Victorian AIDS Council for support following the incident.

RMH denied the man’s allegation of inappropriate care.

“Patient privacy prevents us giving specifics relating to an individual’s care,” said a hospital spokesperson in a statement.

“This patient was assessed and given clinically appropriate care and treatment.”

The hospital apologised in 2010 for two similar mistakes in making PEP available appropriately.

At the time, the hospital committed to follow-up training with staff to ensure PEP protocols were followed correctly.

Simon Ruth, Chief Executive of the Victorian AIDS Council, said that PEP is an important tool in the suite of available HIV prevention strategies.

“We have a formal position on PEP that no one in Victoria should live more than 50 km from a PEP dispensing point and PEP should be available in all publicly funded hospitals,” Ruth said.

“We encourage anyone who believes they may need to access PEP to head to www.getpep.info for more information.

“The sooner someone starts PEP the better, but it must be started within 72 hours after a possible exposure to HIV.”

 

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