A new clinic, the Queer Wellness Centre in Illovo Johannesburg, opened today, giving renewed hope to members of the often marginalised LGBTQI+ community.
Speaking at the opening was Miss South Africa, Sasha-Lee Olivier. She said she was delighted to be present at the opening of a facility that “provides a part of our community with basic human rights.”
One of only five queer-friendly clinics in South Africa, each offering specific services, QWC sets itself apart by specialising in specifically queer community health needs such as, anoscopies and kidney-related issues around PrEP treatment.
Thami Kotlolo of the Thami Dish Foundation said: “This is a much needed and welcomed intervention for the LGBTIQ+ community. South Africa struggles with giving specialized healthcare for our community and I’m happy that we have dedicated specialists who are committed to bettering the experiences of the LGBTIQ+ humans. ”
QWC will also act as a platform to help fast track transgender affirmation therapy – an underdeveloped medical area in South Africa with decade-long waiting lists at clinics across the country.
QWC will provide endocrinology services for hormone therapy and connect patients with surgical specialists to plan and perform transition surgery.
The founders of QWC, Dr Claudia Do Vale and Dr Ryan van der Merwe said their aim was to provide unbiased, personalised care while offering state of the art medical services specific to the needs of the LGBTQI+ community. As an example, the QWC will be the only clinic with anoscopy technology therefore able to provide a “papsmear for your anus” to prevent anal cancer.
Co-founder and specialist physician, Dr Claudia Do Vale, said: “Much time, dedicated research and care has been put into the foundation phase of this centre. Cultural experts, researchers, medical doctors and financiers joined forces to bring life to QWC.”
“Overall, this centre is a place of compassion and targeted specialist health care. We opened our doors in November 2019 and plan on expanding into other parts of the country as well as the African continent in the future.
“It is a privilege to be able to contribute towards good healthcare and safe spaces for the LGBTQI+ community. We want to make a meaningful impact on the lives of members of the community and this will serve as the foundation on which the QWC legacy will be built,” Dr Do Vale said.
She said members of the LGBTQI+ community already have fewer options when seeking indiscriminate or stigma-free healthcare.
Dr Do Vale noted there are limited services available at a surgical and subspecialist endocrine level with years-long waiting lists for surgery. She said the holdup was due in part to a lack of specialists in this field
“We want to help any person seeking transgender affirmation surgery by connecting them with the right surgeons and medical professionals needed to get your journey underway.
“The process for surgery is also onerous and specialists need to sit on a panel to discuss the merits of performing surgery. “This is time-consuming and many medical practitioners either have little of it or are not interested in this particular field meaning the run-up to having surgery is arduous and tiresome for the transgender community,” Dr do Vale said.
She added that members of the LGBTGI+ community talk often about the discriminatory treatment they receive from healthcare professionals in South Africa.
Dr do Vale said that denying a person healthcare or treating a person differently because of their gender identity or sexual orientation “is against the South African constitution (Section 27 and Section 9).”
She said that private doctors may also be under-educated or misinformed when it comes to LGBTQI+ related health issues and requests.
She quotes an example given of someone who went to his childhood doctor for a prescription for PrEP (daily medication that helps prevent the contraction of HIV).
“He refused to give the patient the pill, telling him, instead, that he should simply be using a condom and having safe sex. It’s the kind of moral judgement that patients do not need,” Dr do Vale said.