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Fri Jul 01 04:35:38 SAST 2016

Older men giving young girls HIV‚ says study

TMG Digital | 01 February, 2016 14:42
“Preventing HIV infection in this age group is a pre-requisite for achieving an AIDS-free generation and attaining epidemic control‚” says Rifkin. File photo
Image by: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

Young schoolgirls in South Africa are contracting HIV from older men‚ a study released on Monday reveals.

The study also urges males to undergo circumcision‚ which cuts their chances of contracting the virus by 60%.

With 400‚000 new infections every year‚ South Africa is still the country with the highest incidence of HIV in the world‚ and the statistics for youth contracting the virus are shocking.

According to HIV management organisation Careworks‚ more than 2 300 girls between the ages of 15 and 24 will contract HIV every single week.

“Statistics for boys in this category are equally chilling‚ but research shows that the incidence of new HIV infections among young females is more than four times higher than that of their male counterparts‚” the group said in a statement on Monday.

The risk is particularly great for high school learners because they are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviour‚ such as unprotected sex‚ says Marina Rifkin‚ a Public Health Specialist at CareWorks.

“Sexually active young women are particularly vulnerable as they often engage in sexual relationships with older men. Research conducted by the Centre for the AIDS Programme Research in SA (Caprisa) shows a trend of girls contracting HIV from older men.

“The study found that both girls and boys on completion of Grade 7 remained HIV-negative. However‚ by the time they finished Grade 12 about 7-10% of girls were HIV-positive‚ yet most of the boys remained HIV-negative. This is because the girls were having sex with older men who were likely to already have been infected by the HIV virus.

“Preventing HIV infection in this age group is a pre-requisite for achieving an AIDS-free generation and attaining epidemic control‚” says Rifkin.

She says many will have had their first sexual experience by the age of 14 or even younger.

Rifkin says voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) has so far proved to be an effective strategy in fighting the epidemic.

“The once-off 20 minute procedure reduces a man’s lifetime risk of HIV by up to 60% and it helps to prevent other sexually transmitted diseases (STIs).

The group says that research in Orange Farm‚ south of Johannesburg‚ has shown lower HIV infection rates among circumcised men than among uncircumcised men.

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