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Cameroon doctors, trans activists seek improved health care

Trans activists in Cameroon have begun working with doctors and other health professionals to overcome barriers confronting trans men and trans women who need medical care.

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Trans activists from the advocacy organizations RITA and Transamical met recently with health professionals to seek improved acceptance of trans men and trans women at hospitals and clinics in Cameroon.

By Courtney Stans

In Cameroon, transgender people are often victims of discrimination and stigmatization at hospitals and clinics. At many locations, medical staff refuse to treat trans people. Sometimes they denounce trans patients to police, accusing them of violating Cameroon’s anti-homosexuality law.

One result is that the prevalence of HIV infections is high in the trans community — 20.4% according to a recent study.

Because of the fear of stigmatization by medical staff, only 24% of trans people surveyed said they would go to the hospital in case of illness.

The problem is being tackled by the TransAfrican Independent Network (Réseau Indépendant TransAfricain, or RITA) and the local Transamical advocacy group. They organized a recent meeting in Yaoundé with doctors and health workers to focus on improving health care for transgender people.

The effort is part of the groups’ battle against HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections among transgender people in Cameroon. Transamical also organizes discussions about issues affecting the daily lives of trans people and intervenes on behalf of transgender people in cases of gender-based violence.

One goal of the meeting was to educate medical professionals about trans people. Another goal was to set up collaborations with hospitals and health centers to improve access to health care for trans people.

“The exchange between the health personnel and the RITA team was friendly,” the organizer of the meeting stated. “We think that the health professionals learned their importance to providing good health care for transgender people.”

Courtney Stans, the author of this article, is a Cameroonian journalist who writes under a pseudonym. Contact her at [email protected].