"Blessers" - the reason for high HIV rate in young women - study

Professor Salim Abdool Karim, who is the Director of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa, says they've been trying to understand why the rate of young women living with HIV is increasing.

After doing some research they discovered that the majority of these young women where getting infected with the HIV virus by older men also known as 'Blessers".

The term “blesser” is the latest term for 'sugar daddies', in South Africa.

The research shows that older men “bless” younger, often poorer women, with money and gifts with the expectation of sex in return.

In those relationships it is very hard for young women to insist on using condoms. The usual messages we give of ABC's (Abstinence, Be faithful and Condomise), they have very little value in those kinds of relationships.

Professor Salim Abdool Karim, Director of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research

It has been known for some time that young women have the highest rate of HIV infection in South Africa. Seven out of 10 people living with HIV in the world live in Southern and Eastern Africa.

Professor Salim Abdool Karim, Director of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research

He says that the situation can be dealt with if we change the community norms and make it unacceptable for teenagers to have sex with older men. "That should not be allowed", he says.

This message needs to be conveyed that these kinds of relationships should be discouraged and should no longer be allowed.

Professor Salim Abdool Karim, Director of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research

Listen to the full conversation below:

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