UNDER-SERVED? Prisoners are not having access to adequate health care, according to South Africa Prisoner Organisation for Human Rights president Miles Bhudu.Picture: Bertram Malgas
Before South Africa reaches health equity, vulnerable groups, especially men who have sex with men, prisoners and the LGBTI community, need to have access to proper health care.

This is according to Right to Care, a non-profit organisation that supports and delivers prevention, care, and treatment services for HIV and TB.

Project co-ordinator for the organisation’s Global Fund Programme, Edward Sibanda, said the vulnerable members of the population are most at risk of contracting HIV and need access to health care.

“Susceptible populations face challenges in exercising their basic human right to health, leaving too many under-served.”

Sibanda said stigma and lack of knowledge by health-care workers often make public facilities hostile environments.

“This prevents LGBTI people, sex workers, prisoners and people who inject drugs from accessing medical services. The way someone looks or is dressed may affect the way she or he is treated, and this should not be the case.”

South Africa Prisoner Organisation for Human Rights president Miles Bhudu said while it was a constitutional right for prisoners to have access to adequate health care, this was not happening.

“Prisons are grossly mismanaged and overcrowded and this affects the health of prisoners.”

He said the lack of funds are also an issue.

“Who really cares, people often think these people deserve what they get. A lot of people in detention die, not because of terminal or incurable diseases, but because of medical negligence."

Department of Correctional Services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said the department facilitates access and ensures provision of primary health-care services to inmates.

“All inmates are entitled to health care at state expense except for treatment for cosmetic purposes. An inmate may be granted permission to be treated by his or her private medical practitioner or dentist at their own cost and risk."

According to the Human Sciences Research Council, the public health-care system needs to be made “ friendlier to men in same-sex relationships, as it could reduce the spread of HIV”.