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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 November, 2003, 13:19 GMT
Why are girls so vulnerable to HIV?
Woman receiving cash for sex
Most young girls cannot resist advances from sugar daddies
A report by UK-based organisation Panos says in the African countries worst affected by the Aids pandemic, girls are five to six times more likely to be HIV positive than boys of the same age.

Indeed, some two-thirds of new HIV infections are among women between 15 and 25 years.

As part of Africa Live's Week on Aids we are asking why young women are so vulnerable to HIV infection.

Some say "sugar daddies" are to blame - girls are tempted into relationships with older men who can offer cell phones, clothes, even cars - and a touch of sophistication.

There have even been reports that some pupils engage in sexual relations with their teachers in return for good grades.

Perhaps greater efforts should be made by schools and parents to teach sex education.

What do you think? Who is to blame for the high rate of HIV transmission among young women?

Join the BBC's Africa Live programme Tuesday 18 November at 1630 and 1830 GMT.

Use the form to send us your comments, some of which will be published below.

If you would like to take part in the discussion, e-mail us with your telephone number, which will not be published.

Your comments:

I think one of the main reasons why girls are more vulnerable to the HIV virus is because of abject poverty. There are situations where parents even send their daughters to go after men in order to sustain their families. I think if there is a remedy to this problem then it should certainly start from the sensitisation of such parents.
Lovet Bawoh, Cameroon

Young girls like best things, they can offer having sex just to have those good things.
Sibusiso Simelane, Swaziland

Young girls like best things, they can offer having sex just to have those good things.
Sibusiso Simelane, Swaziland

Poverty is to blame. For the poor there is no education, and everything is good to make end meets.
Abdoulaye Daka, USA

The governments are responsible for the spread of HIV in that they have not made it a high profile issue. The biggest threat to Zimbabwe for example is HIV, yet the government has a bigger defence budget than it spends on health. We could use the army and the police to police those who have sex with minors, those who knowingly infect others, and those who transgress the laws on this matter. It does not help that many of government senior officers are positive and are not even admitting it to the nation.
B Magaba, Zimbabwe

I am disturbed by the number of commentators who suggest that the increasing number of young women infected with HIV/AIDS is due to lack of sex education in schools. While I am a strong proponent for sex education in schools I believe the bigger issue is the lack of self respect and self esteem that is causing girls to become prey to these so-called "sugar-daddy" paedophiles.
Tara Curtis, US

He who pays the piper dictates the tune. Poverty, greed, illiteracy and primitive cultural practices are all the factors responsible for the scourge among young women.
Adeola Monplaisir, Nigeria

Materialism, poverty, illiteracy and laziness are all factors leading to African girls being vulnerable to HIV.
Sellu Mawundu, Germany

Materialism, poverty, illiteracy and laziness are all factors leading to African girls being vulnerable to HIV. I think if these could be addressed, their vulnerability would be minimised.
Sellu Mawundu, Germany

Whereas I agree that poverty and its entire host of related conditions such as low self esteem, lack of empowerment and broken socio- economic fabrics of society contribute greatly to girls being more vulnerable, I would like to add anothere critical component: violence against women and girls. In South Africa, women who have experienced violence or are in violent relationships have been found to be up to six times more likely to have been infected with the virus! Power, and control are factors that need to be studied more.
Sam Kareithi, South Africa

Poverty and lack of education are the main reasons. But I also blame parents and society for young people's misfortune. Everybody has failed them:Their schools, churches, government, relatives and friends. It is like a corrupted environment. They don't know what is good for them anymore.
Sam Rupani, USA

Girls naturally like flashy things and they compete amongst themselves for these things. It does not matter whether she comes from a rich family or not. She would sleep with an older men so that he can, for instance, buy her an expensive cell phone. I do not believe lack of education in our country is to blame. The government has adopted an aggressive policy on combating HIV/AIDS in this country. The youth are simply not helping the situation.
Lesego, Botswana

There is the misconception that a man infected with the HIV virus can 'cleanse himself', if he has sex with a virgin.
Mary Wanjiku, Kenyan in Germany

Misconceptions in Africa are some of the reasons why young girls tend to be more vulnerable to HIV. There is a belief among some African men that young girls do not have the HIV virus. There is also the misconception that a man infected with the HIV virus can 'cleanse himself', if he has sex with a virgin.
Mary Wanjiku, Kenyan in Germany

Poverty and ignorance are two serious problems in the fight against AIDS. For people who lack the most basic things in life, food, shelter and the hope of a better tomorrow, the road down to selling your body for yourself or family is not long. Ignorance is a problem because many today have not clearly understood how easily one can be infected if one does not take precautions: to be blant many still believe that condoms are not necessary. People in Europe have more sex and with many partners, but they take precaution and AIDS is not a serious problem.
Mohamed Adan, Norway

In Africa most young girls go for sex secretly and for very little money. Many others are victims of lack of openness, sex education, communication in their families, greed, lack of civic education, lack of equal justice and negligence. Supprisingly most of these "sugar daddies" are government officials, civil servants, company directors, doctors and teachers. Good governance, strong and equal justice to all, poverty reduction are the only remedies to tackle AIDS.
Kambale, Congolese in Australia

I am amused by those commentators who say materialism is responsible for the increased risk of HIV infection among young women. These girls are exchanging sex for basic human needs such as food, clothing, education and housing. This is not materialism but poverty. Many African communities also turn a blind eye to sexual abuse and exploitation of young girls, pretending it does not occur or trying to wish it away. Our vulneralbility to HIV and other sexually transmitted infection will be reduced when we are allowed more power and control over our reproductive desicions.
Patricia, Nigeria/USA

As far as my understanding goes on this topic, I feel that misconstrued and baseless conceptions are passed on by the media and artists, who unfortunately are role models for the youth. It is not to say that the media is irresponsible, but there is a section of the media, which for short term financial or ideological reasons, delve into giving "TRASH" a look of sophistication and vogue which is taking it toll on the youth and the easy targets are young girls and women.
Alok Vats, USA

I believe if anyone wants to help his or herself the good result will bounce back. Girls prefer going with Sugar Daddy, mostly with Big Belly. Poverty or illiteracy can not be blamed, everyone is supposed to have dignity. So they should have no regret in contracting the virus since they want Sweet Daddy.
Anthony Amaechi Iketalu, Nigeria

Poverty can disarm even the strongest military in the world. It has morally disarmed girls on the African continent.
Joachim Arrey, Ossing, Cameroon

Poverty is certainly the answer to the question. Poverty can disarm even the strongest military in the world. It has morally disarmed girls on the African continent, and that explains why girls are so vulnerable to HIV. When hunger strikes, the girls can sleep with anybody and everybody to earn their daily bread, and since most men do not like condoms, they end up infecting the poor and helpless girls. Africans need to create more economic opportunities for girls if they have to stop the virus from killing more women.
Joachim Arrey, Ossing, Cameroon

I think that the male dominated society prevalent in Africa has taken advantage of poverty, which affects the economically disadvantaged women more than it does men. When you are starving, AIDS seems the lesser of the two evils.
Antoinette, Canada, ex S. Africa

These young girls are being used by men who manipulate and pressure them into sex. In many cases, it is not consensual sex, it is rape. These girls grow up with no rights or self-esteem and are prey to disgusting individuals who lord their position in society over them. Anyone who attempts to lay blame on the girls for this situation clearly has no idea about what is going on.
Aynsley Toole, Canada

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