HIV ‘Virgin’ Myth Suspected Behind Rapes of Children in South Africa
Six men have been charged with raping a nine-month-old South African baby, allegedly because they thought the act would cure them of HIV, the South African Press Association reports. The attack occurred less than one week before two other South African girls under the age of four were also raped, allegedly by family members. Northern Cape Health Minister Dipuo Peters said of the attacks, "I suspect that at least part of the reason these children were raped is because of the myth held in rural areas by men with HIV that they can cleanse themselves by having sex with a virgin." Official police statistics released on Wednesday show that between January 2000 and June 2001, 31,780 cases of rape and attempted rape were reported among children in South Africa. A number of children's organizations have criticized the South African government for "not doing enough to protect children" from rape (South African Press Association, 10/31). The African National Congress Women's League and the ANC Women's Caucus on Friday asked the country's courts to impose a life sentence on men convicted of raping "children and babies knowing they (the men) were HIV-positive" (South African Press Association, 11/2). Peters said that although health officials are "doing their best" to educate people about HIV/AIDS, "certain myths [are] hard to dispel" (South African Press Association, 10/31).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.