Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) Social Science and Research Ethics Programme Manager Dr Natsayi Chimbindi was an invited panellist at the recent Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism policy dialogue on ‘Blessers, blessees & HIV: SA’s risky relations and what to do about them’ at the 9th SA Aids Conference in Durban.

The policy dialogue took a deep dive into the effects of blessers and blessees on HIV transmission, and possible solutions to the situation. Panellists included Dr Yogan Pillay, Deputy director-general of the Department of Health; Prof Salim Abdool-Karim, Director of the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa (Caprisa); Lerato Mofokeng, Deputy Chairperson of the South African National Aids Council’s (SANAC) youth sector; Mandisa Dlamini, Founder and Director, Gugu Dlamini Foundation and Prof Helen Rees, Founder and Executive Director, Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute.

“Age-disparate sex is an epidemiologically important risk factor for HIV transmission. However, it is complex to translate it to what it means for young people and development of HIV prevention programmes,” commented Dr Chimbindi. “Focusing on age difference alone is misleading as it may create a false sense of security for young people who are not in relationships with older men. Further, in our setting with a very high HIV burden – any unprotected sex with a partner of unknown HIV status is risky.”

Watch the full session below.