In South Africa, “sugar daddies” present health authorities with a big problem, as sex between older men and poor young women is a risk factor in the spread of HIV.

Now a survey has shown that the “sugar daddy” phenomenon is big in the US, too.

Nearly 3 000 American students went online last year in the search for a “sugar daddy” to fund their education.

Georgia State University and New York University were the top two schools for woman students to seek out men willing to fund their tuition, with Pennsylvania’s Temple University following closely behind for third place.

According to the website, last year there was a 58 percent growth in woman students signing up to be “sugar babies”, which the site describes as “attractive, intelligent, ambitious and goal-oriented” women seeking “financial pampering”.

It said 292 Georgia State University students and 148 students at the University of Georgia signed up to the site.

It added that 285 New York University students and 100 students at New York City’s Columbia University signed up.

Pennsylvania has had the most growth, on average.

The website’s founder, Brandon Wade, said in a statement: “While some may argue that these women are just using men for their own personal gain, I believe that they are proactive in pursuing a higher education.”

CBS spoke to a student last year who is a member of the site and asks for $10 000 to $20 000 a month.

The 22-year-old from Miami, who did not want to be identified, said she was looking for someone who would never say no to her needs.

“The lesson here… ask and you shall receive,” she told the US network.

“They have given me cars, trips, jewellery. These guys will take you out and they will court you. They support you financially. My dreams came true after my parents stopped supporting me when I was 18.

“They have money. They see you struggling, They want to help you. Whether or not it is an arrangement, it is still a relationship.”

She said her “sugar daddy” paid for her tuition fees, books and everything else. In return he asks for sex., which launched in 2005, describes itself as “the elite sugar daddy dating site for those seeking mutually beneficial relationships”.

It matches “sugar daddies”, described as “respectful and generous” men who “want to date the best” and are “brutally honest” about what they expect and what they offer, with “sugar babies”, who are “students, actresses, models or girls and guys next door”.

Lee insisted it is not a type of prostitution service, instead labelling it an escort service, with the terms of the relationship left up to the two consenting adult users. He said all exchanges were closely monitored. – The Star, Daily Mail