In South Africa, sponsors/sugar daddies are known as ‘blessers’. Of course, they bless these young ladies with money in exchange for sex and other crazy things. For 27-year-old Lebogang Motsumi, she was ‘blessed’ with an HIV infection by a man who was a decade older than her.
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“It was August 15, 2009, at 1:00pm,” she said, recalling the instant when her life changed traumatically.
“I was so ignorant,” she said. “I thought HIV had a face” – thin, poor and dying – “and I wasn’t that face.”
The man who infected her with the AIDS virus was a “sugar daddy” or, in local parlance, a “blesser” -an older man who “blesses” a younger, often poorer girl with money and gifts and expects sex in return.
The danger of the “blessers” has been in the spotlight at the International AIDS Conference being held in Durban this week.
In South Africa, seven million people live with HIV – and older men are thought to be largely to blame for the shockingly high rate of infections among teenage girls and young women.
“To the ‘blessers’, there is only one level I want: the zero level, zero tolerance for men who put adolescent girls at risk for HIV,” UNAIDS chief Michel Sidibe declared on Monday at the conference’s opening session.
Every week, an estimated 2 000 South African women between the ages of 15 and 24 contract HIV.
Girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are up to eight times more likely to be HIV-positive than boys the same age.
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