LGBTIs, men who have sex with men, sex workers, prisoners and people who inject drugs battling to access healthcare


Monday 4 December 2017: Equity in healthcare will only be achieved when the rights of all population groups, including lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, men who have sex with men, sex workers, prisoners and people who inject drugs, are also fully respected. Edward Sibanda, Programme Coordinator for the Global Fund Programme at Right to Care which implements HIV prevention programmes for key vulnerable populations explains, “These key populations are more vulnerable to HIV/Aids and associated conditions and more needs to be done to help them exercise their right to healthcare.”


“We aligned Right to Care’s World Aids Day activities with UNAIDS’s 2017 World Aids Day campaign which focused on the right to health. Susceptible populations face difficult challenges in exercising their basic human right to health, leaving too many underserved,” says Sibanda.


Issues of stigma and a lack of knowledge by healthcare workers often makes public facilities hostile environments which prevent LGBTI people, men who have sex with men, 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.


“Right to Care applauds the achievements that have been made in ensuring that health services are available to everyone. Much has been done to sensitise health care workers and mentor clinicians so that they can competently deal with the health needs of vulnerable people. These programmes highlight that the right to healthcare must replace any personal negative sentiments that healthcare workers may have.


“South Africa has also made great strides in that the country now has a national strategic plan that prioritises healthcare for key populations and includes the roll out of the combination prevention programme – a three-pronged initiative to control HIV through targeted interventions for key populations – across the country. But all stakeholders still need to work towards ensuring accessibility, appropriateness and affordability of health services to vulnerable populations.”


Earlier this year, Right to Care, in collaboration with key stakeholders, announced its roll out of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) at two sites in Gauteng and one in the Western Cape, targeting those at risk for HIV exposure. PrEP is the use of antiretroviral drugs by HIV-negative people before potential exposure to prevent the acquisition of HIV. Expansion of this programme into a further five provinces is now underway. Sibanda says, “PrEP is a significant development in responding to HIV and has been effectively used as a prevention strategy in several countries.”


Concludes Sibanda, “Through support of the Global Fund for Aids, TB and Malaria, Right to Care is supporting partner organisations to implement HIV prevention programmes for key affected populations such as men who have sex with men, transgender people and people who inject drugs as a way of guaranteeing their right to health.”


According to UNAIDS, “Almost all of the Sustainable Development Goals are linked in some way to health, so achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, which include ending the Aids epidemic, will depend heavily on ensuring the right to health.”




Right to Care is a non-profit organisation that supports and delivers prevention, care, and treatment services for HIV and TB. Through technical assistance, Right to Care supports private sector, the Department of Health and the Department of Correctional Services. In addition, through direct service delivery, Right to Care treats patients for HIV, TB and sexually transmitted infections.


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