CHILDREN are still being targeted for sex by adult men who cling tenaciously to the belief that unprotected sex with virgins can cure sexually transmitted disease such as HIV/AIDS.
Eve for Life, a local group that caters to mothers and their children who are infected with HIV/AIDS said, on its counselling visits to women in many inner-city communities, it continued to receive reports that the age-old myth was still alive.
“We have come a far way towards educating members of the public about HIV/AIDS, but a lot more needs to be done,” said Marjorie Samuels, a counselling psychologist with Eve for Life. “We are still hearing about a number of practices taking place in the many communities. Adults — the men especially — many of them are targeting children with the belief that sex with children can cure certain diseases.
“It is a cause of concern that the old myth is still around. Many men are targeting the children based on the belief that sex with the innocent can cure certain disease,” complained Samuels.
What has made matters worse, she added, was that the practice continued to create a pool of children who were becoming carriers of the deadly HIV virus, many of them being unaware of their status and so remain under the radar, as their age groups were not targeted in many of the HIV/AIDS outreach campaigns.
The psychologist was unable to provide any statistics on the number of cases reported to her office, but said several other organisations had received similar reports.
A report from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) that promotes children's rights, their survival, development, and protection, said adolescent Jamaican boys and girls were among the most at risk for infection due to a prevailing culture of multiple sex partnerships and inconsistent condom use.
UNICEF said that girls aged 10 to19 were almost three times more likely to become infected with HIV than boys of the same age as a result of early sexual initiation, sexual relations with HIV-infected older men, forced sex and prevalent unsafe sexual practices. The UN organisation also revealed that Jamaica has an estimated HIV prevalence of 1.7 per cent.
Eve for Life said it was fully aware of this data and is trying in its own way to stem the development with a number of outreach programmes.
“The latest programme is called the “Nuh Go Deh’ campaign” and is aimed at calling on adults, especially the men in the society ,to be more responsible and to leave the children, especially the young girls, alone,” Samuels told the Jamaica Observer.
Nadine Bigby Swaby, advocacy officer at the Eve for Life bemoaned the fact that too many women were still afraid to come forward to disclose their status because of fear of discrimination.
“Despite the major inroads to stem the gap where education of HIV/AIDS is concerned, many women remain afraid to come forward and disclose their status because of discrimination surrounding the disease,” she said.
The NGO group’s members believe that, with more sponsorship to support the programmes, such groups more could be done to attack the problems.