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Palliative care for sexual minorities in Zimbabwe

14 July 2015

Currently, and particularly in Africa, little is known about the palliative care needs of sexual minorities. Therefore an appraisal to identify palliative care needs of these groups in Zimbabwe was undertaken on behalf of the Open Society Foundations (OSF) in collaboration with the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of Zimbabwe (HOSPAZ) with guidance and collaboration from the principal investigator of a similar project being undertaken in the United Kingdom (ACCESSCare).

75 participants from four sites across Zimbabwe were interviewed on issues related to life-limiting conditions specific to the targeted populations, access to care, and care needs of key populations.

Participants represented urban centres, border communities and tribal/ethnic populations. Little attention in relation to palliative care has been given to sexual minorities and sex workers whose sexual behaviours promote higher incidence of some lifelimiting illness due to risk behaviours which may be linked to discrimination.

Holistic care for African lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LBGT) persons, sex workers and men who have sex with men (MSM) should be designed to give equitable access to quality palliative care, without marginalisation or disregard for special care needs in different care settings.

It is highly likely that due to their marginalised and sometimes stigmatised status, these groups are not able to access mainstream care. Palliative care providers and health workers are likely to benefit from this study by raising their awareness of the human right to health care of marginalised populations along with the palliative care needs of this group.

Jennifer Hunt, clinical social worker specialising in palliative care, said: “Access to palliative care for marginalised populations in general, and in Africa in particular is extremely tenuous – it is hoped that this study will raise awareness of the right to palliative care for sexual minority groups.” 

This article was first published as a case study in the report: Hidden Lives, Hidden Patients, commissioned for World Hospice and Palliative Care Day 2015. The report can be found on the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance website and will be officially launched on 10 October 2015 as part of the World Hospice and Palliative Care Day celebrations. To find out more or to register an event for the Day, please visit the World Hospice and Palliative Care Day webpage

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