THURSDAY, July 11, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Economic need forces many teen-age girls in Zimbabwe to offer sex to older men in return for money and gifts, and it's a major cause of the spread of HIV in that country.

That's the claim of new research from the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF).

The researchers collected data from eight focus group discussions that included 71 male and female teens, aged 16 to 19 years old, from two urban sites.

The study was being presented today at the International AIDS Conference in Barcelona.

Girls in the study reported it was normal to have boyfriends who were more than five years older than them, and that about two thirds of the girls were involved with older men, so-called "sugar daddies."

The girls reported it was difficult to negotiate safe sex with these older men. The men often became violent if the girls suggested condom use or refused sex.

While many of the boys reported at least one sexual experience with an older woman, the boys said condom use in such cases was common and often initiated by the woman.

The same UCSF researchers did another study, also being presented at the conference, that included 1,326 HIV sero-negative Zimbabwean young women. The study found that 42 percent of the young women had a partner at least five to nine years older, and 18 percent had a partner at least 10 years older.

The study also found the risk of no condom use was higher for the young women who had partners who were at least 10 years older.

"Age and power imbalances between partners heighten risk for HIV, especially for young women," says researcher Nancy Padian, director of international programs at UCSF's AIDS Research Institute.

"Based on these findings, we are developing prevention programs that focus on adolescent livelihoods," she says. "This approach will combine education -- both training and reproductive health -- with economic programs such as vocational training, job opportunities and small loans or micro-financing."

More information

For additional facts about AIDS in Zimbabwe, visit AIDS Zimbabwe.

Robert Preidt and Consumer news

Updated on June 15, 2022

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