Fighting AIDS in Zimbabwe

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University; Visiting Professor, University of Zimbabwe (1997)

According to Marilyn Chase, "studies show that in Africa, HIV infection is six times as high in girls 16 to 19 as in boys." Using $5,000,000 provided by the U. S. National Institutes of Health, SHAZ (or Shaping the Health of Adolescents in Zimbabwe) is trying provide economic security that might prevent young girls in Harare from being forced into sexual liasons that transmit HIV. As Chase explains,

Poverty has long been a companion of AIDS. In southern Africa, which has been ravaged by the epidemic, many orphaned adolescents end up becoming heads of households. In turn, many of the young women among them fall into relationshsips with older men -- sugar daddies or "dharas" in the Shona language -- who pay their school fees but demand sex in return. . . . Many of the men seek out high-school-age sex partners both because of the prestige of having a trophy girlfriend, and because it's believed the girls are uninfected. Up to a third of such men, though, may already carry the virus. [B1]

SHAZ attempts to shield young women from such relationships by providing them with economic security and life skills. Young women in the project, who will receive education, vocational training, and information on reproductive health, will also work with mentors -- volunteer local businesswomen who will teach them traditional female businesses, such as making clothes and growing spices. The mentors "will fulfill the traditional role of the African 'tete,' or auntie, who is consulted on all major life decisions" (B2).


Chase, Marilyn. "Saying No to 'Sugar Daddies.' Can a Financial Prophylactic Shield Girls from Liasons that Spread AIDS in Africa?" Wall Street Journal. 25 February 2004. Pp. B1-2.

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Last modified 25 February 2004