By Ms Hermina Manjekana Dyeshana, programme specialist at Right to Care
Men enter into relationships with young girls as a transaction. “If you give me unprotected sex, I will give you money, a cell phone, airtime, new clothes, school fees or whatever you or your family need.” This is not a healthy relationship in any way. Blessers are normally older men who have concurrent sexual partners and are sometimes also married. Studies show that they are driving HIV transmission especially amongst young, innocent women.
It’s all about economics. Most of these young women cannot afford to buy the things that they need and are therefore willing to engage in transactional sexual relations with older men to get them. So young vulnerable woman will gladly accept what her blesser gives her, and she repays him with unprotected sex. Regrettably, the unintended gifts include pregnancy, or an STI or HIV.
While our focus at Right to Care is on our young girls because of their precarious economic circumstances and their vulnerability to HIV, we do also call on men to get tested for HIV and screened for other issues, so that they can be diagnosed and treated appropriately. Sadly, men are not entering the health system when it is so easy for them to do so. We have dealt to a large extent with stigma and a man can so easily enter a public facility for a health check-up. We call on men to do so.
Right to Care is involved in programmes to reach men in places where they frequent and are comfortable, for example at popular social spots clubs, entertainment areas, hostels, taxi ranks and at their places of work. Making condoms available and dispelling myths around condom use is also a large part of our work.
Yet it is our young girls that remain our focus because many of these precious young women find themselves in low socio-economic circumstances, where choices are few.
We are supporting programmes that have been developed to reach young men and women in schools and universities and have placed our full weight behind the Department of Basic Education’s national policy on HIV and Aids for learners and educators in public schools and FET institutions.
Right to Care also supports the Dreams (determined, resilient, empowered, Aids-free, mentored and safe) programme. Dreams has helped hundreds of young women to access health services and regain their power.
At Right to Care, we want every young woman to know their HIV status, and their overall health status too. By receiving treatment, one starts to feel well, and can then start to explore opportunities to study or find work.
Girls and women are essential to building healthier, better-educated and sustainable communities. Instead of victims, women and girls can be powerful community leaders.
For support and help please go to:
Here are some important contact numbers for women of all ages who feel they need support in any aspect of their lives right now:
Please also download our Dreams booklet here.