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”

Advertisements

Global Health News Last Week

POLITICS AND POLICY

  • South Africa’s government has set out its plans to introduce a universal health care scheme with a pilot program in 10 areas by 2012 and nationally over the next 14 years.
  • The U.N. must make reducing salt intake a global health priority, sayUK scientists. Writing in the British Medical Journal they say a 15% cut in consumption could save 8.5 million lives around the world over the next decade.
  • IRIN reports on the story of Daniel Ng’etich, a Kenyan man who was arrested and jailed for not continuing his TB treatment.
  • Dr. Jill Biden is leading a high level American delegation toKenya, which includes Raj Shah, to look into the American response to the famine crisis in the Horn of Africa.
  • A report on the state of maternal health in South Africa by Human Rights Watch has uncovered some alarming trends.

PROGRAMS

  • WHO has launched a new website to help those combating malnutrition. eLENA, a new e-library, gathers together evidence-informed guidelines for an expanding list of nutrition interventions. It is a single point of reference for the latest nutrition guidelines, recommendations and related information.

RESEARCH

  • A TB vaccine designed for those with HIV enters phase IIb trials this week in Senegal. The vaccine works by boosting response of T cells already stimulated by the traditional BCG vaccine.
  • Female smokers are more at risk for heart disease than male smokers, finds a systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Lancet.  This is a concern, as smoking rates are increasing in young women worldwide.
  • Scientists are in the second phase of research into using microwaves to kill malaria parasites in mice.
  • A USC researcher has developed a lentiviral vector that can track down HIV infected cells which can potentially act as a marker for targeted elimination of infected cells.
  • People living with HIV who receive the proper ARV treatment have no greater risk of death compared to people without HIV, finds Danish researchers.
  • Around 30 genetic risk factors for developing multiple sclerosis have been discovered by a UK-led team.
  • A new study, showing that a simple blood test can accurately determine the sex of a fetus 95 percent of the time, is great news for parents at high risk of having a baby with rare genetic diseases. But it is bad news to those concerned that the tests could be used to abort a fetus based on gender.
  • British researchers have discovered that the introduction of spermless male mosquitoes can lead to fewer malaria carrying females.
  • A device which can test blood for HIV/AIDS in a matter of minutes has been developed by University of Columbia scientists.

DISEASES AND DISASTERS

  • As if it did not have enough problems already, Somalia is now facing cholera epidemic, World Health Organization officials said.
  • In an August 4 article, Trustlaw’s Lisa Anderson exposes the “silent health emergency” faced by child brides around the globe.  Not yet physically mature, they face grave danger in childbirth, due to narrow pelvises. Girls younger than 15 years of age have a five times greater risk of dying during delivery than women over 20; most of these deaths occur in developing countries that lack adequate and accessible pre- and postnatal care.
  • Amid contradictory government statistics, a volunteer group in Japan has recorded 500,000 radiation points across the country.
  • A Mexican teenager is the first officially known person to die from vampire bat induced human rabies infection. The 19-year-old victim was a migrant farm worker in theUnited States.
  • An estimated 500,000 people in West Africaare infected with lassa fever every year, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday, amid calls for more money to be spent on preventing its spread.
  • Over at Global Pulse, Human Rights Watch researcher Katherine Todrys guest blogs on the HIV epidemic in Uganda’s penitentiaries.Uganda, she explains, has often been presented as a success story in the global fight against HIV/AIDS, and has received over $1 billion from the US for AIDS programs. Many HIV-positive Ugandans have been excluded from these efforts, though, including gay men, drug users, sex workers, and prisoners.
  • Sleep apnea, a fairly common and treatable disorder that causes people to stop breathing momentarily while they sleep, may lead to cognitive impairment and even dementia.
  • Although cases of sexual violence have been under-counted during some wars, during others, such as the ongoing unrest in Libya, they have been vastly over-counted.
  • All patients getting cancer treatment should be told to do two and a half hours of physical exercise every week, says a report by Macmillan Cancer Support.

Toilets “al Fresco”: Dignity is the Loser on South Africa’s Political Battlefield

I was introduced to the South African comic strip “Madam and Eve” by my husband, who has been hooked on it since he lived in Zimbabwe for three years as a kid. It brightens up my Google Reader feed and gives me an excuse to read about current events in the region so I can understand the context of the cartoons. But when they began their series on “toilets ‘al fresco,’” I was appalled at what the news search turned up.

Flickr, Tracy Hunter

With local government elections fast approaching, the African National Congress (ANC), the country’s ruling party, was quick to condemn the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) for building 50 open-air toilets in a township outside of Cape Town. The ANC Youth League took the DA to court over the issue, arguing that they infringed on human dignity. The municipality was ordered to build enclosures for the toilets. The DA, which is the majority party in Cape Town, is struggling to shed its image as a party that caters to the white elite, and the ANC gleefully cast the fiasco as one more example of racism.

Then it was revealed that an ANC-led area has built 1,600 of the same toilets, some dating as far back as 2003.

Both area governments claimed that they did not have the funds to build the enclosures, and that the residents agreed to build them themselves. Julius Malema, the leader of the ANC Youth League, countered that officials should have known better: “They agree to it because they are desperate, they are poor people, they have no option and they agree to anything that comes.”

“Service delivery,” a term referring to the government’s (in)ability to deliver electricity, running water, and sanitation to citizens, has become a buzzword and a driving force in South African politics. While many are upset that these so-called “toilet wars” are just serving as the current political battlefield, others are optimistic that attention is being drawn to the issue. But the most disturbing aspect is perhaps that it happened in the first place, and that these government officials used a bureaucratic technicality to shirk their responsibility to the dignity of their citizens – to provide something as basic as the right to relieve themselves in private.