The first queer wellness centre opened in Johannesburg on the 10th of March 2020, sparring gay and transgender people the discrimination and rejection they often face when seeking medical care.”There are five LGBTI+-friendly clinics in SA but none specifically catering to gay and transgender people,” said Mzamo Mbelle, Medical doctor working with the centre. This became evident in instances where they had to do anal pap smears, which are recommended for people with HIV.
Claudia Do Vale, Co-founder of the centre used her life savings of about R1m to fund the project after realising LGBTI+ patients were not receiving the care they needed.”The centre will provide clients with stigma-free sexual and mental health services, as well as treatments that focused specifically on LGBTI+ people’s needs,” said the founders of the centre.
According to the ILGA, an LGBTI+ Rights Group, Africa has some of the world’s most prohibitive laws against homosexuality, with 33 nations out of 54 criminalising same-sex relations and punishments ranging from imprisonment to death. So far, SA is the only country on the continent to allow same-sex marriage and the constitution was the first in the world to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.“We hope that other African countries will see that if we can do this, then it is possible for them to do it too,” added Mbelle.
The centre will also help fast track transgender affirmation therapy by connecting patients with surgical specialists and hormone therapy.Thami Kotlolo, LGBTI+ activist highlighted that gay and trans patients were often turned away or misdiagnosed by medics with limited understanding of the LGBTI+ community.“We face homophobia in schools, workspaces and hospitals. We so appreciate having a safe space like this,”said Kotlolo.