The virgin cleansing myth (also referred to as the virgin cure myth, virgin rape myth, or simply virgin myth) is the mistaken belief that having sex with a virgin girl cures a man of HIV, AIDS, or other sexually transmitted diseases. Anthropologist Suzanne Leclerc-Madlala has recognized the myth as a potential factor in infant rape in South Africa.
A number of anthropologists, including Nora E. Groce and Reshma Trasi, identified a variation of the practice of the virgin cleansing myth whereby individuals who are “blind, deaf, physically impaired, intellectually disabled, or who have mental-health disabilities” are raped under the erroneous presumption that individuals with disabilities are sexually inactive and therefore virgins
Because of the virgin cleansing myth, as many as ten girls are raped every day. As many as 3,600 girls in Zimbabwe each year may be contracting HIV/AIDS after being raped. UNICEF has attributed the rape of hundreds of girls to the virgin cleansing myth. Cases have been reported in which a one-day-old infant was raped.
In 1999, AIDS accounted for 8,200,000 orphans in the world, with the majority in Africa. Ignorance with regards to HIV and AIDS infection serves as a barrier to prevention in numerous African nations. In Zimbabwe, some people are of the belief that the blood produced by raping a virgin will cleanse the infected person’s blood of the disease.
A study by the University Of South Africa (UNISA) revealed that one million women and children are raped yearly. A survey carried out by UNISA at the Daimler Chrysler plant in East London found that 18 percent of the 498 laborers inquired thought that having sex with a virgin cures HIV/AIDS. An earlier study in 1999 by sexual health educators in Gauteng – the country’s economic hub – revealed that 32 percent of the survey participants’ questions disclosed that that they believed the myth.