By: Donsy Kunene

It took almost 17years for the South African National Council to actually recognise LGBTI in their National Strategic Plan (NSP). This has been realised as one of the positive victories towards the struggle of homosexuals. All the years among the other civil societies from year 2000, LGBTI has not been included in any decision taken to craft the 5 year plan of the NSP.  The first ever LGBTI HIV Plan was launched at a satellite session during this year’s SA AIDS Conference at Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre last month in June. The Plan is not only a first for the country and continent but in the world. It is therefore a much-needed guide to provide effective interventions among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.

This is the fourth National Strategic Plan (NSP) that South Africa has adopted to guide its response to HIV, Tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections. Viewed together, the plans set out in the NSP provide insight into the path have travelled by a nation to overcome one of the most devastating human challenges of our time.

The South African National LGBTI HIV Plan 2017-2022 (LGBTI HIV Plan) was developed to guide the work of all LGBTI stakeholders and implementers in South Africa. The Plan is inclusive of all sexual minorities living in South Africa, and recommends evidence-based and multi-sectoral HIV interventions to address the HIV epidemic in the country. The Plan builds on consensus of LGBTI stakeholders from across South Africa on priorities, challenges, and goals related to providing appropriate, accessible and acceptable services for LGBTI people.

In line with the National Strategic Plan for HIV, STIs, and TB 2017-2022 (NSP 2017-2022) the LGBTI HIV Plan recommends activities that, by 2022, will bring them closer to addressing the vulnerabilities of LGBTI to HIV, TB and STIs with evidence-based practices and within an environment that is affirming of their human rights. With the launch of this new NSP- LGBTI HIV Plan, there is renewed hope and optimism about the national response to HIV, TB and STIs. The Plan is sent to achieve the mission of ending HIV, TB and STIs as public health threats in the country by 2030

The services to be rendered to the LGBTI (including men having sex with other men) will include Peer-led outreach, Specialised counselling support, PrEP, Female condoms and lubricant, Rectal care and treatment, condom options, hepatitis B, screening and immunisation, rectal care and treatment.

Through a package of services outlined, the Plan aims to reach 200 000 men who have sex with men (MSM) and 5000 transgender people by the year 2022 to avail much-needed services at their disposal. Transgender women are 49 times more likely to acquire HIV and MSMs are highly stigmatized and discriminated against in our society. This poses multifaceted challenges against efforts to end HIV, TB and STIs. The Plan will assist the country by providing a focused guidance to help reverse the prevalence of these three infections as well as extensively address issues of stigma and discrimination among LGBTI people.

The Premier of KwaZulu Natal, Willies Mchunu attended the launch and expressed his excitement about the Plan and its objectives, “I congratulate SANAC for drafting this brilliant Plan. This Plan is now a challenge to the rest of us, especially government, to ensure that is implemented well,” he said.