3 years ago

“The care is the best you can give at the time”: Health care professionals’ experiences in providing gender affirming care in South Africa

Talia Meer, Sarah Spencer, Alex Müller

by Sarah Spencer, Talia Meer, Alex Müller

Background

While the provision of gender affirming care for transgender people in South Africa is considered legal, ethical, and medically sound, and is—theoretically—available in both the South African private and public health sectors, access remains severely limited and unequal within the country. As there are no national policies or guidelines, little is known about how individual health care professionals providing gender affirming care make clinical decisions about eligibility and treatment options.

Method

Based on an initial policy review and service mapping, this study employed semi-structured interviews with a snowball sample of twelve health care providers, representing most providers currently providing gender affirming care in South Africa. Data were analysed thematically using NVivo, and are reported following COREQ guidelines.

Results

Our findings suggest that, whilst a small minority of health care providers offer gender affirming care, this is almost exclusively on their own initiative and is usually unsupported by wider structures and institutions. The ad hoc, discretionary nature of services means that access to care is dependent on whether a transgender person is fortunate enough to access a sympathetic and knowledgeable health care provider.

Conclusion

Accordingly, national, state-sanctioned guidelines for gender affirming care are necessary to increase access, homogenise quality of care, and contribute to equitable provision of gender affirming care in the public and private health systems.

Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0181132

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