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Baby rape epidemic

Baby rapes in South Africa are fueled by the myth that having sex with a virgin (even a child or a baby) cures Aids. Traditional healers (witchdoctors) are blamed for spreading this idea.

Thabo Mbeki
6 Dec 2001

"Through the actions of adults, we have put into the heads of the innocent the understanding that they should see every adult as a possible vampire and they, the inevitable and defenceless victim."

Parallels with Europe

"At that time venereal disease like Aids today was incurable. If you had gonorrhea or syphilis you were going to die. And exactly the same myth emerged, that sex with a virgin is going to cure you - so it seems like a very old response whenever sex and death are combined. Suddenly women - girls - get attributed with magical healing powers", Lisa Vetton (a sociologist) drawing a parallel with Europe, when child prostitution was rampant.

HIV positive babies

There are 3 main ways that babies contract HIV:

  1. while the baby develops in the mother's uterus (intrauterine)

  2. at the time of birth

  3. during breastfeeding

Babies born with HIV infection will most likely appear healthy. But sometimes, within 2 to 3 months after birth, an infected baby may begin to appear sick, with poor weight gain, repeated fungal mouth infections (thrush), enlarged lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen, neurological problems, and multiple bacterial infections, including pneumonia.

Testing babies for HIV

If the mother is infected, an ELISA test to check for HIV antibodies in a newborn's blood will almost always be positive, too. Babies will have their HIV-infected mother's antibodies (which are passed to the baby through the placenta) even if they are not truly infected with HIV. These babies may remain HIV-antibody positive for up to 18 months after birth, even if they are not actually infected.

The most accurate diagnosis of HIV infection in early infancy comes from tests that show the presence of the virus itself (not HIV antibodies) in the body. These tests include an HIV viral culture and PCR (polymerase chain reaction), a blood test that looks for the DNA of the virus.

Teenage pregnancy

Each year it is estimated that about 72,000 South African girls between the ages of 13 and 19 years stop attending school as a result of pregnancy. South Africa is one of only a few countries in sub- Saharan Africa that allows pregnant girls to return to school after they give birth. Teenage pregnancy and HIV infection are linked, in that both indicate that unprotected sex took place..

 



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