Tag Archives: qwc

Queer Wellness Centre

15 Jan


Our health is different and the same.

To create an environment where the LGBTQI community is respected, acknowledged and not just tolerated, we need trustworthy allies, who can assist in their capacity with understanding and respect. I met Claudia Do Vale on two occasions in 2018, after the second encounter I knew I had to find out more about her new project of opening a queer wellness centre.
Claudia is a Nephrologist, so you might ask what does a nephrologist do? A nephrologist is a medical doctor who specialises in kidney care and treating diseases of the kidneys. Nephrologists are also called kidney doctors and are educated on all aspects of kidney disease including transplantation and dialysis.

I went on a site visit to the centre and then sat down and had a cup of coffee with her to understand, why she and her husband decided to put up the finance for such a clinic and why it is so necessary.
Through conversations that she had with her queer friends, she was horrified to hear that there is a lot of misinformation regarding certain treatments, particular for Trans-people. Then through in-depth discussions, she soon realised that people are not always given all their health care options and that there is incorrect information documented for medical practitioners to share. This is also heightened by the stigma and discrimination that queer people receive when trying to access medical care. Last year I became aware of the fact that there is a large number of queer, particularly trans people who get violently ill and often die of minor illnesses, purely because they were rejected at our hospitals and clinics and if they received treatment, were not given the correct treatment,
So as we try and work at changing those stigmas, we need to create safe spaces that prevent more deaths and illnesses.

With the reality that our health care system has left a whole community behind and with members of the community not being treated holistically as their sexual and reproductive issues, medication, and life history are overlooked. Looking at Queer health and what is available our health care is about three decades too late. An example of this is Anal Pap smears. Very few people are screened for anal cancer, which can be done through a simple anal Pap smear similar to the Pap smear women go for annually. This is done widely overseas yet is not available to the public in South Africa.
With this information and not being able to receive any assistance in South Africa, Claudia boarded a flight to San Fransisco and went through a specialised course, HRA ( High-Resolution Anoscopy). HRA is a procedure that examines and evaluates the anal canal. It is performed on patients with an abnormal anal Pap test. The procedure is used in the treatment and surveillance of anal dysplasia and the prevention of anal cancer.

With receiving the additional learning, she could begin to see where the health system has failed us and with assistance from the LGBTQI community, she began to map out a plan of the primary needs. Claudia is well aware that the clinic might not cater to everyone but it is a start and through additional partners, the clinic has plans to grow and reach other areas of the country and community.

Through the site visit, I was taken through the rooms at their Johannesburg location. The location is off the main road, close to the bus and taxi route for commuters and the operating hours will be from morning to 20h00, to accommodate those who only finish work at 17h00.

They will offer the following procedures:
* The anal health clinic, this will cater to all-round anal health issues including the anal Pap smear. The clinic offers private individual consultations.
* The STI clinic, this will include the HIV and STI testing, anal and throat STI testing, urine testing for over ten different STI’s.
* Screening for across the board, for example, breast cancer screening for Trans men even if top surgery has been done, often doctors never do and then cancer is diagnosed at a very late stage. An interesting fact is that most regular doctors, do not do screenings for cervical cancer as there is the assumption that they have never had sex with men.
* Mental health space. This is a dedicated space and will have an in-house psychologist and psychiatrist. They aim to have a child psychologist in the future so that parents and families could get adequate knowledge and support should their entire family need it.

They will have sub-specialists

* Kidney specialist so as to handle the correct usage and dosage of ARV’s and PrEP.
* Endocrinologist: Particularly for trans and intersex people. Endocrinologists are very important for sexual reproductive care. Many doctors do not acknowledge that everybody is different and needs specific care.
* Urologist: specialist in bottom surgery but also can assist those with erectile dysfunction as well as prostate issues.
* Paediatricians, we need to acknowledge trans, intersex and gay children. It is important for parents to know the consequences of making decisions at an early age in intersex babies.

Additional feature includes:

* Neutral bathroom facilities
* Space for support groups for members of the community
* Drip clinic- for the heavy partygoers, who need a boost after a crazy night out.
* There will be an in-house pharmacy that will stock all necessary medication.
* The walls will host artwork from artists from LGBTQI community.
The most important feature of all is discretion.

So as they embark on this powerful journey, Claudia and her team are seeking additional advice, partnerships and synergies, so to make the space as accessible to all.

If you wish to learn more and partner with the Queer Health centre, please contact them-
Twitter and Instagram @qwchealth.