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Researchers: Anti-AIDS programs help protect South Africa’s poor from infection from ‘sugar daddies’

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Government grants to help poor children in South Africa also play an important role in reducing HIV risk from “sugar daddies” who prey on teenage girls, a study said on Tuesday.

In a wide-ranging probe published in The Lancet Global Health, researchers in Britain and South Africa interviewed 3,500 teenagers and followed this up with another interview a year later.

Teenage girls from households which received child support were two-thirds less likely to have a much older boyfriend compared to counterparts from homes that did not receive the benefit, they found.

These girls were also half less likely to have sex in exchange for food, money or school fees.

South Africa has more than one in six of the world’s tally of people infected with the AIDS virus.

At the end of 2012, it had 6.1 million people with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), of whom 3.4 million were women, according to UN figures.

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Half of all new infections were among young people, and girls were two to three times likelier to be infected than boys.

One of the biggest sources of infection are so-called sugar daddies — older men who give girls money or material benefits in exchange for sex.

These men are far likelier than boys in the girl’s age group to have HIV and also likelier to press a girl to have sex without a condom.

“This study shows that as long as they are given enough money to survive, girls will choose not to have a sugar daddy,” said Lucie Cluver of the University of Oxford.

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“It also shows how valuable it is to give not only to younger children but also to teenagers, who are most at risk of HIV infections.”

Child support in South Africa was 280 rands ($35 or 26 euros) per month per household in 2012. It was paid to 11.2 million children under 18 under a means-tested scheme. There is also a foster-child grant of 770 rand, being paid for 573,000 children.

Expansion of these programmes means that support now reaches about 70 percent of eligible children in South Africa, according to the probe.

With 100-percent coverage, 77,000 new relationships between girls aged 12-18 and “sugar daddies” could be prevented each year, it estimated.

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Two smaller studies in sub-Saharan Africa have previously provided evidence that cash transfers, focused on poor youngsters, can be useful weapons in the fight against HIV.

One was in Malawi, involving a pilot trial that involved small cash payments to girls; the other was in Tanzania, where money was given every quarter on condition that the girl returned a negative result in tests for sexually-transmitted disease.

The study in South Africa, though, is the first to analyse a grant scheme that is taking place in real life and on a massive scale, rather than in carefully controlled research conditions.

It also comes as other sub-Saharan African countries are mulling whether to introduce social welfare payments for poor households with children.

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These systems “can substantially reduce unsafe partner selection by adolescent girls,” said the paper.

“(They) are of potential importance for effective combination strategies for prevention of HIV.”

There were limits to the advantages of the South African scheme, the investigators added.

It helped wean girls off dependence on “sugar daddies,” but did not reduce their exposure to other HIV risks, such as having unprotected sex when drunk.

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Nor did the grant scheme have any change in HIV risk for boys, who comprised half of the volunteers in the study.

The teenagers were from four urban and rural areas in Mpumalanga and the Western Cape.

The interviews were carried out between 2009 and 2012 when the grant scheme was expanding, and some eligible households received the money but others did not.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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Oregon GOP’s latest tantrum offers a ‘snapshot’ of growing anti-government extremism by Republican lawmakers

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All of Oregon's Republican state senators walked out of the Capitol last week and fled to Idaho to end debate on a climate change bill, but that's just the latest extreme measure they've taken as the GOP loses power there.

Minority parties have walked out before in several states to deny a quorum -- Oregon Republicans did the same thing in May, to kill vaccine legislation -- but the difference this time is the threat of violence, reported The Daily Beast.

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Chuck Todd’s terrible interview with fabricator-in-chief Trump snapped the tether: From here on out there’s no truth

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Nothing will ever be the same again. Donald Trump’s unwavering disregard for reality and his acts of violence against the truth are rapidly metastasizing into the marrow of the national debate. I'm not sure we have enough heroes in this country to successfully extricate Trumpism and toss it into the biohazard waste bin of history, along other embarrassments in America's mixed record.

The very fabric of right and wrong in America is disintegrating as one of our two major parties, with some crucial help from Russia, has convinced four out of every 10 voters that verifiable truth is nothing more than a fake news plot against them and their beloved Fifth Avenue Clampetts. As a result, half of the political debate, from the local level on up, is built exclusively on wrongness — on total nonsense, invented by Trump himself along with his propaganda cable network.

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New York’s legislature gives landlords a lesson in democracy

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The knockout punch that the New York State Legislature just landed fighting landlords over spiraling rents ought to be attracting wider attention.

Just as with healthcare access or prescription drug prices, the cost of rent increases that mostly benefit big apartment owners is a challenge to the income-gap society that are at the heart of the national political debate. Every urban center in the country is having housing problems, and rents, like mortgages, are a subject at every kitchen table.

For once, the New York Legislature, whose Democrats overcame internecine divisions this session, has abolished rules that let building owners deregulate apartments, and closed loopholes that have permitted landlords to raise rents. And the changes for better tenant protection were made permanent, eliminating the recurring drama over these issues.

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