The Zimbabwean ministry of health has approved a training manual to be used by all health practitioners in the country in treating LGBT persons and sex workers in the country’s health institutions. LGBT persons and sex workers have in the past complained of being met with negative stereotypes in the country’s health institutions, something that has seen many shy away from public health institutions for fear of being mistreated. This is a common problem all over Africa as LGBT persons are regularly treated with discrimination and violence in some cases. This has prompted LGBT persons to avoid the public institutions for fear of being set up for police arrests through tip-offs by health staff.
Last month, the health ministry released a 68-page training handbook that seeks to educate and equip healthcare providers at all health centres with the requisite tools of handling the key population.
Here are some excerpts from the manual:
“The programme is to educate and equip healthcare providers in Zimbabwe with the knowledge and skills to enable them to provide health services that support and adequately cater for the unique healthcare needs of sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender and non-gender conforming people and people who inject and use drugs,” the manual reads in part.
According to the manual, every patient has a right to healthcare and humane treatment.
“There is nowhere in policy or law that states that it is illegal to provide healthcare services to members of key population groups, including sex workers, drug users and addicts, transgender people, gays and lesbians.”
This means that it’s every service provider’s duty to provide members of key populations with the same care and treatment that they provide to other patients.
“The fact that sex work, drug use and some sexual acts are considered illegal in Zimbabwe can create a variety of situations that negatively affect members of key populations more than the general populations.”
“This undermines HIV prevention for the whole nation by affecting these individuals’ access to healthcare,” says the government through the manual.
Healthcare providers in Zimbabwe will also be required to use appropriate language when treating or interviewing patients from the key populations over their ailments.
“Begin by building rapport and confidence with the client. Remind clients that information they share will be confidential. Clients have a right to know if what they disclose will be documented and how that information will be used. Remember to use non-judgmental and non-confrontational approach when discussing drug use with clients.”
The release of the training manual which will also be used in the training of healthcare students comes at a time when the Zanu PF government is warming up to gays while sex workers are no longer being arrested or harassed by the police.
This follows a court ruling a few years ago against the indiscriminate arrest of sex workers by police and Victor Matemadanda, the war veterans’ association secretary general met with officials from the Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe (GALZ) in signs the Zanu PF led administration was ready to dump its anti-gay stance. During then President Robert Mugabe’s era, police and other state security agents used to constantly harass and arrest gays but things are looking better and safer for members of the LGBT community in Zimbabwe.