"Adolescent girls are eight times more likely to be infected with HIV than their male counterparts.”
Cape Town - Blessers are driving the HIV epidemic among females as young as 15, the NGO Right to Care has charged.

As South Africa marks Reproductive Health Month, Right to Care has called on the healthcare system to target blessers.

Programme specialist for maternal, newborn, child and women’s health at the organisation, Hermina Manjekana Dyeshana said blessers were often older men who were in other sexual relationships.

“We know that there are large numbers of older HIV-infected men who have multiple concurrent partners.

"Very few know their HIV status and many opt not to be tested at all. Those who are recently infected with HIV have extremely high viral loads.

"Tragically, they are not entering the health system to get support or treatment. This is a major concern.”

Manjekana said blessers could not be “alienated” and needed to be brought in for HIV testing and other screenings so they could be treated.

“Right to Care is involved in programmes to reach men in places they frequent and where they're comfortable, such as popular social spots and clubs, entertainment areas, hostels, taxi ranks and their places of work.

"Making condoms available and dispelling myths around condom use is also a large part of our work.”

The organisation said young women bore the brunt of the HIV pandemic in South Africa, with nearly a third of all new HIV infections occurring among 15- to 24-year-olds.

“Adolescent girls are eight times more likely to be infected with HIV than their male counterparts.”

National Department of Health spokesperson Popo Maja confirmed that a higher burden of HIV had been seen among adolescent girls.

[email protected]

Cape Argus