BARCELONA, Spain (UPI) -- In the age of AIDS, an age-old
practice -- young women serving older "sugar daddies" -- is
becoming deadly to the women, a U.N. public health expert warned
Tuesday at the 14th International AIDS Conference.
Sex between people of different generations is one of the main
factors fueling the AIDS epidemic in many countries, said Peter
Piot, head of the U.N. Joint Program on AIDS.
"These practices that have gone on for a long time are now
becoming lethal to women," Piot said. Among young people between
15 and 24, about two-thirds of the new infections by human
immunodeficiency virus -- the virus that causes AIDS -- occur in
women and girls, Piot said, but boys and men are not as hard-hit.
"So they're not being infected by men their own age," Piot said,
"they're being infected by older men."
Because they usually have had more sexual experience, older men
are more likely to be infected with HIV, Piot explained, and
because they often refuse to use condoms, they are more likely to
infect their partners.
The reasons for girls and young women submitting to
intergenerational sex can include rape, a need to put food on the
table or simply a desire for new clothes and "status items," said
researcher Nancy Padian of the University of California at San
Francisco, who presented a study of young men and women in
"Between 30 and 40 percent do have older partners for some sort
of material gain," Padian told United Press International. For
orphans supporting younger siblings, Padian said, "sex may be the
only thing they have to trade."
She continued, "At the other end of the scale, it can be a desire
for status items like clothes or lipstick. (But) these kinds of
relationships are often characterized by violence -- over 40
percent of the young girls that we interviewed had had some sort
of forced sexual experience."
Padian said the study also showed some young men have sex with
older women, but in those cases condoms are commonly used,
because the woman is usually married and does not want to risk
One 15-year-old girl interviewed for the study said "girls with
no money like me" are likely to have a "Big Dhara," or sugar
daddy. "If you take his money and refuse sex, he will rape you,"
the girl said.
UNAIDS reported on July 2 more than half of all new adult
infections -- about 6,000 a day -- are occurring among people
between 15 and 24. Most of those infections are caused by
unprotected sex, according to physician Sunam Mehta, of the U.N.
"In some countries, young women are six times more likely to get
infected than their counterparts, men in the same age group,"
Mehta said, blaming "stigma, discrimination and denial" for
making young women vulnerable, both to intergenerational sex and