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Human Rights Day, marked annually in South Africa on 21 March, commemorates the 1960 Sharpeville massacre. During this tragic event, ordinary people peacefully protesting to proclaim their rights were fired upon by police. Today, the date is a celebration of South Africa’s constitution, which gives equal rights to all.

Despite this, many South African members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community still have their basic rights violated on a daily basis.

According to the Bill of Rights enshrined in the Constitution, no person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds. These include sexual orientation. Yet, a recent report, titled ‘Hate Crimes against LGBT People in South Africa’‚ has revealed that 44% of those surveyed have experienced discrimination in their everyday life, due to their sexual preferences. This most commonly takes the form of verbal insults and threats of violence.WTBlogo2

Even the right of LGBT people to life has been trampled on, with the report showing that 41% of participants knew of someone who had been murdered because of their sexual identity.

“It is unacceptable that 57 years after Sharpeville and 23 years into democracy, South Africans are still having their basic human rights infringed upon,” says Professor James McIntyre, CEO of Anova Health Institute, which is currently spearheading the WETHEBRAVE.co.za sexual health campaign targeted specifically at gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM).

He continues: “In addition to LGBT citizens losing their lives through acts of violence spurred by discrimination, it also leads to indirect deaths. MSM are the most vulnerable demographic for HIV acquisition and transmission. However, they are deterred from accessing health services as a consequence of the homophobic verbal harassment they encounter from healthcare workers coupled with having their rights to privacy and confidentiality threatened by gossip. These services are urgently required by MSM as they include HIV testing and counselling, antiretroviral treatment and the attainment of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to reduce HIV infection in HIV-negative, at-risk individuals. As a result of MSM being reluctant to get help from health facilities, the likelihood of HIV acquisition and transmission are elevated.”

To remedy this, the WETHEBRAVE.co.za campaign, funded by the Elton John Aids Foundation, addresses both prevention and treatment issues in an affirming, non-judgemental and sex-positive way that is both entertaining and enlightening.

The campaign links to Anova’s Health4Men clinical services in the public sector and independent clinicians in the private sector.

“With the theme of this year’s Human Rights Day being ‘The Year of OR Tambo: Unity in Action in Advancing Human Rights’, we call upon MSM to emulate the bravery of those who stood up for their rights in Sharpeville by coming together to defend their rights to human dignity, equality and freedom. Moreover, we encourage every South African to unite behind their fight,” concludes McIntyre.

For more information on the campaign please visit www.wethebrave.co.za or follow it on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Join the conversation with #BraveEnough.

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