A CALL FOR BETTER HEALTHCARE FOR SA TRANSGENDERS ON TRANSGENDER DAY OF REMEMBRANCE

The Transgender (TG) Day of Remembrance or International Transgender Day of Remembrance is held annually on 20 November to remember those transgender people whose lives have been lost to anti-transgender violence. It also aims to draw attention to the violence that is carried out towards many in the transgender community.

This is an internationally recognised annual event, commemorated in 185 cities across 20 countries.

Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses faced to anti-transgender bigotry and violence. “While many seek to erase transgender people, sometimes in the most brutal ways possible, it is important to remember those who died and to continue to seek justice,” states founder Gwendolyn Ann Smith.

Explains Edward Sibanda, Beyond Zero’s technical lead for men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender populations, “We believe that to commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance meaningfully, we can remember those in South Africa who have faced gender-based violence and focus on discrimination free healthcare. People around the world face barriers to accessing quality healthcare. While there are many reasons for this, discrimination is a major factor faced by trans people who may be marginalized, stigmatised, criminalised and otherwise mistreated because of their gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or HIV or other health status, or because of selling sex or using drugs.

“Beyond Zero is overseeing the implementation of a programme which addresses the challenges of this key population group and builds on the work done over time by various activists, trans and gender diverse organisations using a combination of biomedical, behavioural and structural initiatives, prioritising the transgender population to be able to access stigma-free healthcare. Transgender people have a much higher risk of becoming infected with HIV than the general population. Global studies have shown that transgender women are 49 times more likely to be infected with HIV than other adults of reproductive age.  Studies in South Africa have found HIV prevalence rates of 27.7% in transgender women.”

This combination of prevention, treatment, care and support approach, ensures that people have access to the types of interventions that best suit their needs at different times.  Through the comprehensive provision of quality health services for transgender communities across the HIV care continuum aligned to the 90-90-90 targets, Beyond Zero will positively impact the lives of transgender people in managing their HIV status.

Says Sibanda, “Beyond Zero is deploying innovative solutions through the #UnMuteMe campaign where increasing numbers of transgender people have been provided with interventions in condom programming, harm reduction interventions for those that inject drugs, behavioural interventions, HIV testing and counselling, HIV treatment and care and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), prevention and management of viral Hepatitis, TB and mental health conditions and sexual and reproductive health interventions.”

Recognising that healthcare settings are the most common environments in which people experience HIV-related stigma and discrimination, the UNAIDS 2016 – 2021 strategy, has a clear focus on eliminating HIV-related discrimination. The World Health Organization also places in its global strategy for health, a similar priority on ending discrimination in healthcare settings, on models of health workforce education for nurturing the professional ethics, practices and attitudes necessary to deliver responsive and respectful care.

Beyond Zero, aligning with WHO strategy, has begun training and programmes in sensitising healthcare workers, law enforcement and community members to provide an accepting environment for transgender people to seek treatment and support.

Transgender healthcare programmes are active in several sites throughout the country:

o   Free State, Mangaung district, delivered by Tholwana e Molemo;

o   Limpopo, in the Capricorn district, delivered by Anova Health;

o   Mpumalanga, in the Gert Sibanda district, delivered by IHPS;

o   Western Cape province, in the Garden Route district, delivered by SHE.

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