Use of Sexual Health Services by LGBT Students Subject of Master’s Research
Mr Sthembiso Pollen Mkhize graduated with a Master's in Population Studies degree for his research, which provided insight into the use of sexual health services by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students in Durban.
Mkhize says the degree gives him the opportunity to examine the disproportionate burdens confronted by sexual minorities, such as the LGBT community, when accessing and using sexual and reproductive health services. ‘My study is close to my heart. Being a proud, young gay man, I was happy to contribute to the limited research, interventions and knowledge on the sexual and reproductive health (SRH) of the LGBT community.’
The key findings of his study show that LGBT youth are victims of stigmatisation, prejudice and marginalisation within the South African health system, highlighting the importance of revising the SRH policies and interventions aimed at improving the overall wellbeing and quality of life for all young people whether heterosexual or homosexual.
‘I believe my research is beneficial to society because it contributes to the limited literature and research on young sexual minorities, and it adds value to the Department of Health and relevant national health organisations. It also contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals such as good health and well-being, and reduced inequalities,’ said Mkhize.
Being openly gay, Mkhize says he encounters a lack of emotional and financial support from his father. ‘I had to apply for loans to further my studies. I battled depression, anxiety and headaches, however with prayer, faith and by the grace of God, I was able to overcome everything that came my way.’
He thanked his support system of family, friends and supervisor Professor Pranitha Maharaj. His advice to other students is: ‘Never be intimidated by your friend’s academics or success. Know what you are aiming for and always believe that something wonderful is about to happen. In life, we all have unique purposes, and only you hold the key to your success.’
Mkhize’s future plans include pursuing an academic career and ‘registering a non-profit organisation that will give LGBT teenagers in high schools and Higher Education Institutions the knowledge and platform to challenge the social ills affecting them as they move into adulthood.’
Words: Melissa Mungroo
Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan