HIV alert over Rio's raunchy 'funk balls'

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Brazilian authorities are cracking down on a dance craze after a 14-year-old girl became pregnant and contracted HIV during a variation on the children's party game of musical chairs.

Brazilian authorities are cracking down on a dance craze after a 14-year-old girl became pregnant and contracted HIV during a variation on the children's party game of musical chairs.

The so-called "funk balls", which began in Rio de Janeiro but have since spread to other cities in Brazil, attract thousands of teenagers, usually from poorer neighbourhoods, every weekend.

The former model Luciana Gimenez - who gave birth to the Rolling Stone Mick Jagger's baby - has come under fire for helping to popularise the parties by featuring semi-naked women and well-known funk ball songs on her nightly TV show, Superpop.

Police officers and commissioners from Rio's family court will now patrol the city's funk balls, responding to the disclosure that revellers are taking part in underage and unprotected sex, often with several partners in a single night.

Josias Quintal, Rio's public safety secretary, has announced that he is considering banning the parties altogether. During the balls, scantily clad partygoers mimic sex acts in choreographed dances to a pulsing "funk" beat. The music is accompanied by controversial, rapped lyrics containing sexual references.

In one of the dances, called the "chair dance", girls - often wearing micro-skirts without underwear - sit on boys' laps when the music stops.

The police blitz - "Operation Funk Ball" - was ordered last weekend by Judge Siro Darlan of the Rio family court after the city's health secretary revealed the case of the 14-year-old girl who had become pregnant while taking part in the chair dance. She has also tested positive for HIV. Judge Darlan is planning criminal proceedings against the girl's parents and the organisers of the funk ball where she claims she became pregnant.

He compared the balls to the infamous Roman orgies known as bacchanalia, and said: "I was shocked when I heard what was going on. I can hardly believe it. It's hard to imagine anyone having sex somewhere so busy." But Vera Larouche, director of a Rio-based charity working closely with slum-dwellers in the north of the city, said she knew of at least eight more teenage girls who were pregnant after having sex inside funk balls.

"They have sex with more than one boy in a night, get pregnant, and then don't know who the father is," said Vera. Funk balls began about 20 years ago in Rio, but have become popular recently after a series of reports in Brazilian magazines and on television.

The music is more akin to hip-hop than funk, with rapped lyrics including the lines "a little slap doesn't hurt", and "let's go to a motel, I want to play with you".

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