26 February 2020
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Sugar daddies

Nonhlanhla’s story

Citizen journalist Cynthia Maseko shared the story of Nonhlanhla Dube, a 28-year-old woman from Ermelo in the Gert Sibande district.

10 years ago Nonhlanhla fell in love with a businessman in her district during her final year at school. The man became her ‘sugar daddy’ and took her to five star hotels. He convinced Nonhlanhla to have sex without a condom by saying, “we are in love; there's no need for a condom”. 

On 1 April 2004 Nonhlanhla found out she was HIV positive. 

What is a ‘sugar daddy’?

Populations Services International (PSI) defines cross-generational sex as “a non-marital, sexual relationship between partners with at least a 10 year age difference”. PSI’s study on inter-generational and cross-generational relationships in sub-Saharan Africa found that between 12% and 25% of young women’s partners in sub-Saharan Africa were 10 years older than them or more. 

The ‘Sugar Daddy’ campaign

In 2012 the MEC for Health in Kwazulu-Natal, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, started the anti-sugar daddy campaign in the rural village of KwaHlabisa, northern KZN. The campaign used 89 billboards with radio and television ads to warn youngsters against the dangers of sugar daddies.  

The Times reported on 8 June 2012 that “the prevalence of HIV in women shows a sharp increase of up to 6%, reaching a peak of about 8% in the 20 to 24 age group”. The Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa found more cases of HIV among 15- to 29-year-old females may be a result of early sexual involvement with older men.

Social dangers of sugar daddies

Statistics in 2000 showed that one third of teenage women in eastern and southern Africa were HIV positive.

Professor Barthelemy Kuate-Defo wrote an essay on the issue, Young People’s Relationships with Sugar Daddies and Sugar Mummies: What do We Know and What do We Need to Know? Kuate-Defo said that it’s difficult to understand the nature of these relationships and how they are different from child sexual abuse or other forms of exploitation of children. There are just not enough accurate accounts. No one wants to talk about it, whether it’s during or after the relationship.

He found that a combination of biological and social factors lead to high rates of STI or HIV infection. According to studies carried out in developed and developing countries, women are three times more likely than men to be infected during sex. 

Kuate-Defo’s research led him to a study carried out in Dar es Salaam, where girls thought they were too young to get pregnant. Kuate-Defo saw this trend repeated in other countries across the continent.

Sexual education in South Africa

The Health Professions Council of South Africa found that 28% of schoolgirls are HIV positive in South Africa, compared to 4% of schoolboys. 

The Soul City Institute for Health and Development Communication Chief Executive, Lebo Ramafoko, said that cheating is a norm in southern Africa. Soul City started their OneLove Campaign in 2009, urging young people to stick with one partner. Ramafoko said some young people have multiple partners to maintain their lifestyles. Young people often find older partners to help pay for their studies and to support their families back home. However, Ramafoko said sugar daddies are found in all communities, not just in rural areas. 

Nonhlanhla’s happy ending

Through the help of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Nonhlanhla has educated herself about the HI-virus. Today Nonhlanhla is blessed with an HIV negative, supportive husband and two daughters. She’s forgiven her sugar daddy, but, if she knew then what she knows now, she would have made different decisions.