Factors such as stigma, discrimination, violence, gaps in the knowledge and attitudes of health-care workers, and the criminalisation of same-sex acts have adversely affected the access to and uptake of health-care services by LGBTIs in Southern Africa.
To address the need to build and strengthen the capacity of LGBTI organisations in Southern Africa in the domain of public-health research and interventions, partnerships have been formed between COC Netherlands and 19 LGBTI organisations in nine countries in the region. Together with COC Netherlands and other regional and global partners working on HIV prevention and LGBT rights, these partners have embarked on the Dignity, Diversity and Rights (DiDiRi) and Bridging the Gaps programmes.
Partners carried out community-based needs assessments regarding carefully articulated health-care needs of LGBTIs in South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The needs assessments focused on identifying factors that restrict the access to and uptake of health services amongst specific target LGBTI groups as well as factors that influence risky sexual behaviour within those groups. The data gathered from these needs assessments has been instrumental in designing effective interventions aimed at health promotion amongst LGBTIs in Southern Africa.
In its work with community-based organisations, COC Netherlands uses an ‘inside out’ programmatic approach. Besides supporting the strengthening of existing regional LGBTI movements, COC believes in supporting, mentoring and capacitating grassroots organisations to stimulate their evolution towards more sustainable and effective national LGBTI-rights movements.