Health care for SA's LGBT+ community needs boost
South Africa’s LGBTI community continues to face extreme discrimination and inadequate health care.
Every day, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people face violence, exclusion and discrimination in South Africa. To promote inclusivity, the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia took place on Sunday.
*Seoketsi, from Limpopo, was physically assaulted by a nurse. After laying a charge against the nurse, a doctor refused to examine Seoketsi or to sign a report about the assault.heal
Getty Myeni, from Ermelo, knew the men who stabbed her to “fix her to become a real man”. She reported the attack at the local police station where she was ridiculed and mocked. Despite knowing her attackers, the police did not investigate the case.
*Thabo, from Bloemfontein, is mistreated by his stepfather who wants him to “toughen up and be a man”.
*Augustine, from Mpumalanga, said: “My life is a hell - the name-calling, staring, insults and harassment is my daily reality.”
Family rejection when a person “comes out” often results in violence, abuse and adverse health outcomes. LGBTI youth who experience family rejection are eight times more likely to attempt suicide, almost six times more likely to experience elevated levels of depression, and three times more likely to use illegal drugs than those LGBTI youth who were accepted by family members, according to UN Women.
Beyond Zero’s Me1st campaign - which targets men who have sex with men - and the #UnMuteMe campaign - which supports transgender people - indicate that harassment by family and society is a contributing factor to the mental health issues of many LGBTI people.
Bulumko Futshane, Beyond Zero’s programme director for HIV prevention under the Global Fund, said: “Family rejection is high and leads youth to either run away from or be kicked out of their homes. Once they find themselves homeless, they are at risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and engaging in risky sexual behaviour including sex work. Intimate partner violence is also prevalent.”
The LGBTI community is often reluctant to seek medical care because of discrimination or a lack of experience with LGBTI health. This stigma results in increased HIV and TB transmission because patients do not adhere to their treatment routines.
Beyond Zero is training health-care workers and engaging with law enforcement and community members to provide an accepting environment for transgender people to seek treatment and support.
Me1st is targeted at helping men who have sex with men because they are a key at-risk population for HIV/Aids. It provides access to information and free health care that is discreet, confidential, free of discrimination and administered by qualified professionals. For more information, see www.me1st.co.za
* Names have been changed to protect their identities.