Improving LGBT Health Education in South Africa: Addressing the Gap

I first became interested in the topic of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) health care and health education while working as a country lead for the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). During my time there I had the opportunity to travel to South Africa and understand their community and health care system a bit better, with an emphasis on their HIV/AIDS epidemic. This post focuses on the LGBT history in South Africa, recent developments, addressing that there is a gap between homophobia and non-judgmental care, and the importance of health care workers understanding LGBT health education.

More and more countries around the world are opening their arms to welcome and embrace LGBT pride. South Africa has one of the world’s more progressive constitutions which legally protects LGBT people from discrimination, although current research indicates that they continue to face discrimination and homophobia in many different facets of life. The most recent milestone occurred in 2006 when the country passed a law to recognize same-sex marriages. Nevertheless, LGBT South Africans particularly those outside of the major cities, continue to face some challenges including conservative attitudes, violence, and high rates of disease. As the country continues to grow there seems to be an increase in LGBT representation (with approximately 4,900,000 people identifying as LGBT) whether it is through activism, tourism, the media and society or support from religious groups. So, what about LGBT health education? Continue reading “Improving LGBT Health Education in South Africa: Addressing the Gap”

Global Health Weekly News Round-Up

Politics and Policies:

  • Swaziland has launched a new national framework to eliminate new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keep their mothers alive.
  • According to a report Pakistani politicians have pledged for health and education of their people.
  • A Texas Senate bill would revise the state’s end-of-life procedure.
  • Bloomberg’s campaign might close off the remaining means of access to cheap cigarettes and little cigars which make it easier for teenagers to experiment with smoking and progress to smoking regularly.


  • World Bank has approved a concessionary loan of US $200 million to Sri Lanka to further enhance the quality of the health sector service.
  • §  Britain is going to launch a £179 million five-year healthcare program in the Democratic Republic of Congo which aims to reach about six million people.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is planning to clamp down on the sale of non-iodized salt.
  • UNICEF has increased its support from four to ten districts in the Upper East region in Ghana to implement a 5 year child survival program known as the Essential Newborn Care (ENC).
  • A regional health agency has been launched in Kigali, Rwanda, East Africa aiming to facilitate and improve regional health sectors.
  • US AIDS agencies have begun their five-year effort with Malawi’s government to improve health care services for HIV/AIDS virus infected people.
  • Irish aids program helping African people suffering from HIV/ AIDS.
  • Niger’s first lady commits to stopping new HIV infections in children.


  • According to a study done by the scientists at Queen’s University, the risk of getting head and neck cancer can be reduced by 22% by taking a weekly or even monthly dose of over-the counter aspirin.
  • A study shows that climate change can worsen the public health threat of diarrheal disease in Botswana.
  • According to a global health study HIV/ AIDS and tuberculosis are two top killers among the people of Russia.
  • A study on a disease- konzo- indicate that its physical effects on body is accompanied by impairment of children’s memory, problem solving capability and their cognitive functions.
  • Scientists in United Kingdom have been successful in making a vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease. Since it is not made from live virus, its production will require no special containment.
  • United Nations analyst says that Tanzania might achieve millennium goal on maternal health.
  • Kenya Aids Research Coordinating Mechanism chairperson has called for teamwork in HIV/Aids research.
  • According to a study early detection of bowl cancer can help to prevent cancer. They say that those who participated in the screening program were the people who were the most easiest to treat.
  • A study says that a ‘new diagnostic test may be safe and easy screening method that could improve the prognosis of patients with pancreatic cancer through early detection’.
  • Study shows that obesity makes a person to exercise less.
  • According to a study elderly people who have many social interactions may live longer than those who are more socially isolated.
  • According to a NIH study pregnant women who experienced financial, emotional or other personal stress in the year before their delivery had an increased chance of having stillbirth.
  • A study by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention many mothers in U.S. start infants on solid foods earlier than experts recommend.
  • A study done by the scientists at Boston School of Public Health finds a link between childhood abuse and fibroids.
  • Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine say that improving levels of vitamin D in the blood via supplementation could help to fight disease by affecting gene expression and boosting the immune system.
  • Italian scientists say that people who suffer from migraines are more likely to have brain abnormalities at birth and some develop them over the course of time.

Diseases and Disasters:

  • According to the reports about two people have died due to infection of a new strain of Avian flu in China.
  • UNICEF warns that 2 million children in Central African Republic are without basic supplies.
  • United Nations has been forced to delay desperately-needed food-aid to nearly 300,000 people in Guinea Bissau as it has so far received no donations to support its operation.
  • According to the United Nations reports about 240,000 Pakistani children have missed their UN sponsored polio vaccinations due to the security concerns in the country’s tribal regions.
  • According to the reports, skin lightening is popular among the females in Senegal despite of health concerns over the product.
  • Reports show that the public health centers in Tanzania do not have enough medicine and hospital supplies.
  • Clusters of vancomycin resistant enterococci cases in Kowloon Central Cluster (KCC), in Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Hong Kong have been reported.
  •  Visitors urged to stay away from Beaumount Hospital Dublin due to flu outbreak, according to the reports.
  • The health officials of Australia have become alarmed after the report of first death from XDR-TB- drug resistant tuberculosis.
  • According to the reports, more than 7,000 people might have been exposed to HIV and or hepatitis in Oklahoma dentist’s office.


Peace, Love, and Fair Trade

There is an ongoing debate within my circle of friends about whether Austin is a truly “hippie” town, or if it is merely “hipster,” and the [aggravation caused by an influx of people and traffic for the] South by Southwest music festival intensified the argument last week. The live music capital of the world prides itself on offering vegetarian and vegan options at every restaurant (e.g. tofu tacos at Mexican restaurants), boasts avid cycling and recycling communities, and even has green and eco-friendly furniture shops and dry cleaning establishments. As a coffee lover, though, what stands out most to me is that every independent coffee shop carries as much fair trade coffee, tea, and chocolate as it can cram into its menu (though it should be noted that this is a trend among coffee shops in general, no matter where they are). Whether genuine or for show, Austin is as eco-hip as they come.

While I appreciate the emphasis on sustainability, I wonder if it overshadows fair trade’s emphasis on improving the lives and livelihoods of the farmers and artisans it serves. While many are aware of its emphasis on sustainable agriculture and organic farming methods, perhaps less known is the fact that it can help improve infrastructure, provide education, empower farmers, and improve health care for fair trade producers and their communities.

TransFairUSA's "Fair Trade Certified" label
TransFairUSA's "Fair Trade Certified" label

Fair trade producers typically work (and may even live) in organized co-operatives that may or may not be linked to a particular company or organization. Products with a “fair trade” label have been certified by that organization to have been produced ethically (i.e. guaranteeing basic human rights, without child and slave labor, in a manner that protects the environment, allowing workers to unionize, etc.) and to have been purchased at a price that covers the cost of production. (TransFair USA’s criteria can be found here.) In addition to ensuring wage and practice requirements, fair trade organizations collect a small amount of the profits generated from product sales into a “social premium,” or a fund for community development. Producers meet regularly to decide how to invest these funds. Many fair trade communities choose to build a clinic to provide basic health services to residents, or schools to better educate their children (or sometimes both). One wine co-op from Chile, with 1,400 families, established a fund to assist with medical needs, including hospitalization, medicine, house calls for those who cannot travel, and maternal, psychiatric, and dental care for residents. A cocoa-growing community in Côte d’Ivoire used their earnings to build a small health clinic with four providers and an ambulance. Before the clinic was built, the nearest health facility was ten kilometers away, and 30 farmers died each year of treatable diseases; now, the clinic performs approximately 36 life-saving operations in the community each year.

Impact studies have found that fair trade participants have been able to increase gross household income, which allows them to better feed and educate their children, and can even provide an economic boost the surrounding community as a result. Their economic vulnerability to commodity prices is also reduced, and some studies have noted drops in child mortality. One of the most important fruits of these fair trade co-ops, however, is empowerment: farmers gain the ability to diversify their production and improve the quality of their products, they have a say in the development of their communities, and they can even gain political influence in their communities.

A cappuccino in a brown mug with the design of a leaf made by the milk.
Flickr, niallkennedy

While the economic implications of fair trade are still the subject of intense debate, participation in fair-trade co-ops gives farmers the control over their businesses and livelihoods of which they are too often robbed under typical trade structures. It encourages more environmentally sustainable farming practices, and it gives us a warm fuzzy feeling when we buy coffee, tea, or chocolate (or even clothes and accessories). Who wouldn’t want to feel like they were helping the poor and the planet while sipping their cappuccino?