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Faith participants address sugar daddy relationships and HIV transmission

Faith participants address sugar daddy relationships and HIV transmission

Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC

17 July 2016

By Bonginkosi Moyo-Bango

Hashtag Downwithblessers reigned supreme at an AIDS2016 pre-conference workshop entitled: Sugar daddy relationship and HIV Transmission: Religion as a resource for social change.

Chaired by the University of KwaZulu-Natal-based Ujamaa Centre and the Collaborative on HIV and AIDS Religion and Theology, the discussions centred on using the Bible and other sacred texts as a site of struggle to bring life rather than death.  Contextual Bible Studies (CBS) are a tool developed at the Ujamaa Centre and have been used to break the silence around contentious issues such as HIV and AIDS and sex, something viewed as a great breakthrough. Through the use of CBS, formerly taboo topics such as sexuality are discussed and beneficial information shared.

Age-disparate relationships, despite what they are called (blesser and blessee relationships in South Africa), are not a new phenomenon, but they are to a great extent responsible for the statistics in the latest UNAIDS Global Update that reveals that  adolescents and young women aged  15-24 years old are  particularly at high risk of HIV infection. These account for 20% new infections globally and this phenomenon is most pronounced in sub-Saharan Africa. In South Africa alone, it is estimated that 2,000 young women ages 15-25 are infected with HIV weekly.

The bastardisation of the word “bless” is seen as a blight to the church and is a word the workshop organizers mean to reclaim through advocating for the criminalization of the so-called blessers and rejuvenate the flagging activism around HIV and AIDS issues.

“The roots of prophetic theology are ordinary people. Currently state and church theology are almost exactly the same in South Africa and prophetic theology is almost non- existent. Contextual Bible Studies can help the faith community to return to effective prophetic theology,” declared Prof. Gerald West, director of the Ujamaa Centre.

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