Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi,
at the OUT Gala Dinner
South Africa’s Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, has committed his department to working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) groups, such as OUT, to ensure equality in the provision of health services.
Motsoaledi was the guest of honour and keynote speaker at OUT’s 15th Anniversary Gala Dinner at Theatre on The Track in Kyalami on Friday. OUT is a Gauteng-based LGBT health and well-being services provider.
“I wish to congratulate OUT on its 15th Birthday. It is as old and as experienced as our democracy. In fact it is no coincidence that it was established at the birth of our new democracy,” said the Minister.
He committed the government to upholding the equality of all citizens as cemented in the constitution, but noted that these rights are not always implemented in everyday life.
“Sometimes we still need to fight for those rights. You still need a group of people to go out and fight for them. That’s why I’m happy that OUT is committed to the building of healthy and empowered lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and to reduce heterosexism and homophobia in society,” he said.
Motsoaledi further acknowledged that “heterosexism and homophobia are often key drivers of many negative things in society”.
“I don’t believe that anyone is born homophobic in the same sense that no-one is born racist. These are norms we acquire because of our socialisation. And, in turn, other human beings can move us away from these prejudices,” he said.
Turning to the health system, Motsoaledi affirmed that “all people – regardless of race, culture, gender, HIV status or sexual orientation – have equal rights to the provision of services”.
He called for more research to be undertaken on HIV prevalence among the LGBT community in South Africa and urged OUT to assist with this.
“We must build a health system that will meet the needs of all our people – and we hope you will partner with us in this. A relationship with OUT will help us implement our programme.”
Dawie Nel, OUT’s director said that he was delighted with the Minister’s speech and presence at the function. “It is ground-breaking that a senior South African member of Cabinet has spoken at an event hosted by a LGBT group such as OUT,” said Nel, adding, “We see this as just the start of further interaction and collaboration with government.”
OUT was formed in 1994 as a loose network of individuals who wanted to make a difference and has since become a highly respected professional NGO and a model for many other community groups. OUT’s focus areas of work are direct health and mental health services, research, mainstreaming and advocacy. It offers its LGBT clients – who are often neglected or rejected by mainstream service providers – numerous vital services.
These include: HIV and STI counselling and testing, CD4 and viral load monitoring and testing, pap smears, the provision of Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) for risky sexual encounters and general physical examinations. OUT also provides free HIV testing and safe-sex packs at events and nightclubs and further offers general face-to-face and telephonic counselling, online advice and resources and various support and activity groups.