Healthcare experiences of lesbian and bisexual women in Cape Town, South Africa

Riley Smith
Culture, Health & Sexuality 2015, 17 (2): 180-93
Understanding the health needs and experiences of South African lesbian and bisexual women is imperative for implementing effective and inclusive public health strategies. Such understanding, however, is limited due to the exclusion of these women from most existing research on healthcare access in the region. This paper bridges that gap by investigating the healthcare experiences of lesbian and bisexual women in Cape Town. Data were gathered from 22 interviews with self-identified lesbian and bisexual community members and university students in the Cape Town area. Interviews explored obstacles women face in accessing affirming services, different experiences with public and private healthcare, fear of stigma/discrimination, availability of relevant sexual health information and suggestions to improve existing programmes. Findings suggest that South African lesbians and bisexual women may have a range of both positive and negative experiences in public and private health services, that they use protective strategies when 'coming out' and that they find that sexual health information pertinent to them is largely unavailable. These discussions contribute to a more inclusive understanding of the experiences of lesbian and bisexual women accessing healthcare and other services and help to inform providers, thereby enabling them to deliver more meaningful care to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in South Africa.

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