While there has been light shown on the LGBTQI+ community with many campaigns set on reducing the stigmatization faced by members of this community, we can all agree that there is still more to be done. PSDS hosted a support group with Wits Reproductive Health Institute (WRHI), Lifeline, Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) and (Mothers for the Future (M4F).

Participants were provided with a safe space they could share their experiences not only with each other but with the organisations who are devoting time to making a change in their lives. The participants shared that stigmatization and discrimination were still issues in communities, workplaces and healthcare settings in South Africa.

Plights of the LGBTQI+ community in South Africa

One participant shared that she had to leave Zimbabwe because her sexual orientation is still illegal and the queer community was stigmatized. Unfortunately, being in South Africa has not improved the situation much for her as reported by other participants. The members of the LGBTQI+ community in South Africa are still facing discrimination in social clubs and scenarios. One participant has found that there are a few spaces that he can go where he feels safe and faces no judgement for who he is, however, in civil spaces such as public transportation they face not just discrimination but violence. On better days they are still trolled with harsh comments.

Surprising, some individuals in organisations that are meant to serve and protect such as law enforcement officers and healthcare workers failed to serve them in manners that were not offensive. Sometimes they are treated differently when they report their cases. Members of the LGBTQI+ community shared that the healthcare system was pointed out as one of the social spheres that people from the queer community are discriminated against.

Equiping the participants

In a bid to equip the participants, WRHI and M4F shared information on HIV treatment, testing at the clinic, PREP, and treatment adherence. Furthermore, Reneilwe from WRHI taught the group the importance of taking medication, the best times to take their medication and what procedures to follow when one has defaulted. Derrick from Lifeline informed everyone present about the organisation’s emotional wellness and psychological support which is one toll-free call away at 0861322322. Lifeline services include counselling services to people and gender-based violence cases. They also have a helpline specifically for people affected with HIV which is 0800012322.

To conclude the session, PSDS highlighted psychological support and social assistance services offered by the organisation. By sub-contracting Future Families, an organisation that provides social assistance, PSDS is doing its part to provide support for the LGBTQI+ community in South Africa all of which would not be possible were it not for the brave participants in such support groups.