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Having Sex With a Virgin Will Cure HIV

It is widely agreed that this belief is entirely untrue. See for instance A cure for AIDS at Avert.org.

The idea that having sex with a virgin will cure venereal disease predates the advent of HIV and AIDS. Although very little research has been done to establish the exact origins of this belief, the “virgin cure” myth is thought to have originated sometime in the 16th century, widely manifesting itself in the Victorian era (19th century) as a “cure” for syphilis and gonorrhoea (Earl-Taylor, Mike (2002) HIV/AIDS, the stats, the virgin cure and infant rape).

In South Africa, the earliest recorded incidence of virgin rape dates back to the end of the Second World War when returning soldiers triggered an epidemic of venereal disease in the Eastern Cape (Earl-Taylor, Mike (1999) HIV men rape virgins in search for cure).

An increase in reported child and baby rapes in the late 1990s and early 2000s lead to increased media and public attention to the issue of virgin cleansing (see for instance: Govender, Prega (1999) Child rape: A taboo within the AIDS taboo; CDC (2001) AIDS Myth Fuels South Africa's Child-Rape Scourge and IRIN (2002) Myth of the virgin cure).

Whilst these cases revealed that some South Africans do believe that having sex with a virgin will cure HIV, the extent to which this belief is responsible for the high incidence of child rape has been contested (see Jewkes, Rachel; Martin, Lorna and Loveday, Penn-Kekana (2002) The virgin cleansing myth: cases of child rape are not exotic).

The virgin myth is also thought to be linked to rape in individuals with disabilities. This stems from another misconception: that disabled individuals are not sexually active. A discussion by Nora Ellen Groce and Reshma Trasi entitled Rape of individuals with disability: AIDS and the folk belief of virgin cleansing puts this issue into context.

Further reading:
Leclerc-Madlala, Suzanne (2002) On the virgin cleansing myth: gendered bodies, AIDS and ethnomedicine. African Journal of AIDS Research, Vol. 1(2).
Meel, B. L. (2003) The myth of child rape as a cure for HIV/AIDS in Transkei: a case report. Medicine, Science and the Law, Vol. 43(1).
Richter, L.M. (2003) Baby rape in South Africa. Child Abuse Review, Vol 12.
Wits Journalism Anova Health

The project is jointly managed by the Anova Health Institute and the Journalism and Media Studies Programme at the University of the Witwatersrand. The project is funded by by the Health Communication Partnership based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Centre for Communication Programmes and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief through the United States Agency for International Development under terms of Award No. JH/HESA-02-05 and through the Anova Health Institute through PEPFAR via USAID under Award No. AID-674-A-12-00015.