As the issue of homosexuality continues to spark debate in the country, reports are rife that homosexuals are facing challenges when seeking medical attention in the country’s public health facilities.
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) executive director Timothy Mtambo has since expressed worry over an increased number of homosexuals from all corners of the country coming to his office to report and complain of all kinds of discrimination they face from medical personnel when seeking medical attention, especially after developing sexual reproductive complications or contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Without giving specific names of the health facilities and personnel, Mtambo said the trend was worrisome, taking into consideration that every person has the right to human dignity and health.
Explained Mtambo: “We have reports that instead of just treating them like any other patient, some medical personnel make fun of homosexuals, some refuse to treat them or ask them so many irrelevant questions. This is unacceptable and we condemn it in strongest terms.”
Responding to an e-mailed questionnaire on Thursday, Ministry of Health (MoH) spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe said his office has not yet received any complaint regarding the matter.
Chikumbe, however, said in line with the Universal Access to Healthcare, and according to general medical ethics, medical personnel are obliged to treat everyone coming to the hospital regardless of what they do, who they are or whatever infection they have contracted.
He said every patient deserves courtesy, respect and compassion.
“It is, therefore, wrong for any medical practitioner to discriminate anyone because of their sexual orientation, what they do or who they are. We encourage all those that have experienced any form of discrimination at any of our health facilities to report to highest authority at the facility or any other relevant authority,” Chikumbe said.
Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) acting spokesperson and deputy hospital administrator Chikumbutso Tambala said in an interview the problem was that most homosexuals do things in secret, “a tendency that has led them into suffering in silence.”
Some public hospitals The Nation talked to also said they are not aware of any ill-treatment directed at gays when they seek medical attention from their facilities.
On his part, Blantyre district health officer Medson Matchaya said so far he has not received any report from any of the district’s health facilities on the alleged ill-treatment of gays.
“If it is really happening, this is unfortunate and if I was officially communicated on the matter, I would act. I urge all those who have gone through that experience to come and report to my office in confidence,” he said.
According to Mtambo, if not urgently checked, denying homosexuals medical attention will fuel the spread of STI’s, including HIV and put lives of people with homosexual orientation in danger considering that some are now shunning treatment for fear of being humiliated.
A seven-site Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) HIV prevalence, socio-behavioural and population size estimation study released at the end of 2014 found that there are 38 734 people who engage in homosexual activities, representing 1.84 percent of the overall male population aged 20 to 39 years in Malawi.