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Teachers alerted to HIV risks

Sexually abused children are at risk of HIV, yet most professionals are unprepared to discuss this, Jacqueline Mok, an international authority on children and HIV who works in Edinburgh, said.

"At the very least those working with child abuse survivors should know about the routes of transmission of HIV, about tests and therapies available, as well as support services," Dr Mok said.

She described how inter-agency guidelines set up in the former Lothian Region in 1994 had led to close, effective working between doctors and teachers. Between 1994 and last year, the department of community child health had 1,231 referrals, mainly from social work and education.

All these initial discussions involved a senior paediatrician. Four in 10 children went on to have medical examinations, by a single doctor or jointly by a senior paediatrician and police surgeon. Eleven joint paediatric and forensic examinations took place in a children's hospital.

Dr Mok said that close collaboration among agencies had led to "prompt and co-ordinated services to children who disclosed, or were suspected of being abused. The majority were examined in an appropriate setting for children, with no undue delay."

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