News / Africa

Study: Small Grants Can Protect SAF Teenage Girls from HIV

FILE - A billboard highlighting the dangers of young women being lured into sex-for-cash by older men is seen in Durban, South Africa.
FILE - A billboard highlighting the dangers of young women being lured into sex-for-cash by older men is seen in Durban, South Africa.

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
A new study shows that alleviating poverty can help protect South African teenage girls from HIV/AIDS. It says small, monthly government grants allow girls to live more normal lives and avoid the advances of older men. The older men are called sugar daddies. They’ve got cash and use it to lure poor girls into having sex with them.


“Throughout sub-Saharan Africa teenage girls face a huge risk, which is poverty. And many of them really struggle to pay for basic things in their families, like food. So, about 25 percent of the children in our sample don’t have enough to eat in their families for at least two days in the past week,” said Dr. Lucie Cluver, associate professor at Oxford University and the University of Cape Town and the lead author of the study.

Associate Professor Lucie Cluver says government grants to poor South African teenage girls can protect them from some HIV risks. Courtesy: Oxford UniversityAssociate Professor Lucie Cluver says government grants to poor South African teenage girls can protect them from some HIV risks. Courtesy: Oxford University
x
Associate Professor Lucie Cluver says government grants to poor South African teenage girls can protect them from some HIV risks. Courtesy: Oxford University
Associate Professor Lucie Cluver says government grants to poor South African teenage girls can protect them from some HIV risks. Courtesy: Oxford University
But Cluver said going hungry is just one of the problems they face.

“One of the biggest reasons that girls talk about having older boyfriends – or having transactional sex or sugar daddies – is because they need to pay school fees and they need to provide food for their family. And that’s especially bad when someone is ill in their family. So if they’re living with a grandmother who’s old and very frail or if they’re living with someone who’s very sick with HIV/AIDS or something else, then it’s even harder because they have to support that person.”

Boys do not face the same burden.

Cluver said, “Really it’s about the market. It’s a buyers and a sellers market. What you do get is older men who have access to cash, who are looking for younger girlfriends. You just don’t seem to see the sugar mommy syndrome, where you would have an older woman and a younger boy. You just don’t seem to see it.”

Some people may have the wrong impression about why teenage girls have sugar daddies or older boyfriends.

“A lot of what people have talked about when they talk about transactional sex and sugar daddies has been seeing teenage girls as choosing to have these older boyfriends because they give them nice toiletries and hair stuff and cellphones and luxuries. So they’ve seen it as something that these girls have been choosing to do because they’re aspirational – because they’re trying to, you know, look like Beyoncé,” she said.

The average age of the more than 3,500 South African girls interviewed for the study is 14.

Cluver said the South African government has expanded an older grant program. It now provides child support grants of about $35 a month to 11 million children under age 18.

“In a sub-Saharan African country, we have a government grant system that provides for every child who is poor and who needs the money. When I started working as a social worker in the early 2000s, that grant system was originally designed for white families under Apartheid. And they moved it to cover all families who are in need, so, including the huge populations of black and colored families in South Africa,” she said.

The South African government also provides foster child grants of $96 a month to about 600,000 people. But Cluver said many needy children are still not yet covered by the program.

In Malawi and Tanzania, studies show that grants or cash transfers can have a positive effect. For example, in Malawi, cash transfers to girls resulted in a lower HIV prevalence rate. A big reason is that girls start dating boys their own age, who are less likely than older men to be infected with the AIDS virus.

But the grant system is not perfect. The study says grants do not reduce other kinds of risks for girls, such as the likelihood of having unprotected sex or having sex while drunk. And the grant system does not reduce the HIV risk for boys.

You May Like

In China, Mixed Signals on Ebola Controls

How authorities are monitoring at-risk individuals remains unclear, including whether there are quarantines for Chinese health workers returning from West Africa More

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Electionsi
X
October 31, 2014 4:10 AM
Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid