Cross-generational sex, including transactional sex and forced sex with young girls, 10 to 19 years old, is posing serious challenges to the HIV response in Jamaica.
Sex with young girls, has over the years, become the norm, and is the subject of many popular songs. It is widely practised in many communities, regardless of economic status.
A groundbreaking study, done by Family Health International's (FHI) 360 Communication for Change project in Jamaica, 'Cross-Generational Relationships: Perceived Norms and Practices in Jamaica', noted that cross-generational sex contributes greatly to HIV prevalence and has become a norm.
The participants in the study indicated that cross-generational relationships were common and persons were, generally, indifferent to these relationships or ap-proved of them for the material gain they offered.
The study further noted that young girls got involved in cross-generational relationships primarily for emotional/security support. Other reasons were sexual gratification and financial gain.
On the other hand, the primary motivation for males was sexual gratification. The study also pointed to the fact that many of the persons involved in cross-generational sex also had multiple, concurrent sexual relationships.
Statistics from the Ministry of Health also show that transactional sex is increasing, whereby 43 per cent of persons 15-24 years reported being involved in the activity in 2012, up from 39 per cent in 2008.
Additionally, at least 20 per cent of young girls report that their first sexual encounter was forced.
A key underlined factor in all the above is that young girls are becoming engaged in sex from an early age, thus increasing their vulnerability to HIV and early pregnancy, as they are unable to insist on condom use or to refuse sex. Eighteen per cent of pregnancies now occur among teenagers up to 19 years old, and HIV infection is three times higher among young girls, 10 to 19 years old than among young boys of the same age.
As a result of the foregoing, EVE For Life is launching a community chat 'Nuh Guh Deh!!'.
This community chat will take place November 29 to December 5 in three major town centres (Half-Way Tree, Ocho Rios and Sam Sharpe Square - Montego Bay) and one inner city community in Kingston.
These community chats will prelude an islandwide campaign to be launched under the same name.