US Global Aids coordinator worried about blessers

2016-07-16 08:00

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Durban - That there is an app which makes it possible for young women to meet older men for transactional relationships is very concerning, said ambassador-at-large and US Global Aids coordinator, Deborah Brix.

"When I talk to young women about the lives that they are facing, it is a bit overwhelming.

"Listening to their stories of what puts them at risk and the new stories of [the] blessers and blessed and the fact that that is an app now that connects young women to older men in a very quick way for transactional supportive sex, is very concerning," said Brix.

Brix, who is also a US special representative for global health diplomacy, delivered a keynote address at the 9th International Aids Economics Network pre-conference hosted in conjunction with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Friday.

Durban is hosting the 21st International Aids Conference from July 18 to 22.

A blesser, or sugar daddy, is an older man who gives a younger woman money or gifts in exchange for sex. President Jacob Zuma on Youth Day spoke out against the phenomena of "blessers" sweeping across parts of the country.

A Facebook page called Blesser Finder which provides a platform for young women to connect with rich men for transactional sex made headlines earlier this year.

Communication strategies

Brix said organisations needed to change their strategies in how they communicated with the youth about HIV/Aids.  

"We have tried traditional prevention, so we have got to do things differently but we have to meet young people where they and their issues are and use their communication style to have an impact.

"We need to reach people in a different way and reach them with messages that will resonate with them. Sometimes our message does not resonate with a 17-year-old," said Brix.

She said she hoped there would be a HIV/Aids vaccine or cure by 2020.

"We need to figure out a way to implement... until we have a vaccine because we are trying to change the course of an epidemic without a cure and a vaccine, it is extraordinarily difficult."

She said there had been a decrease in new HIV/Aids infections in sub-Sahara Africa.

"There is a dramatic decline in sub-Sahara Africa in the incident rate in new HIV infections and a lot of this was driven by the amazing progress in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission which is down by almost 450 000 per year."

Brix said the young people were particularly at risk of HIV/Aids.

The South African government tweeted the HIV/Aids conference agenda on Saturday:

Read more on:    aids2016  |  durban  |  hiv/aids

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