fbpx
skip to Main Content

Celebrating Pride Month with Alfred: Championing Health and Acceptance for GBMSM in South Africa

To mark the end of Pride Month, mothers2mothers (m2m) is proud to spotlight the incredible work being done by our Family Mentors through Project Activating MSM Peers for Life and FamilY (AMPLIFY). This innovative pilot project aims to support gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) in the Gauteng and Western Cape provinces in South Africa. Today, we sit down with one of m2m’s dedicated Family Mentors, Alfred, to discuss his experience of working with and supporting GBMSM in his community. 

In his own words, Alfred is a proud activist for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender plus (LGBTQI+) people and a gay man.  

Alfred is ready to champion healthcare access for GBMSM and their families at the Gugulethu Community Health Centre in Cape Town.

Question: Alfred, tell us about yourself and how you became involved with mothers2mothers Project AMPLIFY. 

Alfred: My name is Alfred, but my community knows me by my nickname—Mabhuti. I first met m2m through a job advert towards the end of 2022. As a person who has been advocating for the rights of the LGBTQI+ community for 20 years it seemed only fitting that I would work with a project that closes the gap on ensuring health care services are available to people in my community. 

Q: How did your journey as an LGBTQI+ rights advocate begin? 

Alfred: My journey began nearly 20 years ago when I would sit and have conversations with other gay men in my circles to discuss the challenges we had just existing in our communities. Through those conversations, I found that it was hard for us to exist in a society that normalised stigma and discrimination towards anyone who was not conforming to society’s standards. Hate crimes towards LGBTQI+ were, and still are, the order of the day. I decided to volunteer with an organisation that was trying to close the gap in access to justice services, social and health care, and acceptance of people who are part of the LGBTQI+ community. 

Q: Having done such important work for the rights of your peers, what made you want to join m2m’s Project AMPLIFY Team? 

Alfred: I’ve always known that we cannot address the issues that affect entire communities without starting with the families of the people affected. How do we combat hate crimes at a community level when my peers are not accepted by their own families? And how do we address bigger health issues that affect society when we do not make services available and accessible to the people who need them?  

What attracted me to m2m’s Project AMPLIFY is that we address the issues that exist in our communities from the human level up. I wanted to be the reason why a person sought health services, and the reason why families could have open conversations – in addition to being part of the reason why people get the justice they deserve when they have been wronged. 

Alfred and his team collaborate with other community organisations to conduct workshops, interactive discussions, and community engagement sessions to educate their community about LGBTI+ rights, promote acceptance, and foster social cohesion.

Q: As a Family Mentor, how are you bringing change to your clients and their families?

Alfred: I work in a community health centre that has a dedicated section for men’s health. In my community, most men, regardless of their sexuality, do not go to clinics to access health care. Health care is widely seen as something for women, and most health centres are staffed by female health workers. 

At my clinic, we teach everyone who comes to the clinic about the services available to men. We also do community outreaches to reach those who do not come to the clinic for any reason and educate men about the services we provide under Project AMPLIFY. 

We encourage our clients to keep seeking health care services and encourage them to stay in care and on treatment, especially those living with HIV. The part I enjoy the most is going out to our clients’ homes and engaging with their families to encourage positive dialogue and acceptance. 

Q: Have you ever come across a family that is unwilling to engage with you? If so, how do you navigate that? 

Alfred: The beauty of m2m’s peer model is that it works, and it can be replicated in many scenarios. Just like we have learned from the peer model that m2m has been using to support women and children, I rely on the families and parents I engage with to connect with other families. We call these people allies. 

In the cases where I have met parents who are not willing to accept or talk about the fact that their children identify with a gender or sexuality they disagree with, I recruit some of our ally parents to go with me on the household visit (always with the permission of our client).  

When the two sets of parents meet, they share lived experiences and can talk about how they came to terms with these conversations in their own families. This always encourages the other family to talk, understanding that we will walk the journey with them. 

Q: Thinking back to your personal journey and your experience coming out about your sexuality to your family, how do you use that experience in your job as a Family Mentor? 

Alfred: It was hard for me to come out to my parents. Being in a religious family made it even harder to come out to my father; I was afraid that he would disown me. However, I will always be grateful that my mother was easy to talk to and that she supported me in coming out to him and the rest of our family. It took us all some time, and many conversations, to be fully comfortable with who I am. 

That said, coming out to people in my church was even harder. It caused our congregation to split in half; those who supported me versus those who shunned me. But the support of my family made it easy to come to terms with the fact that, for some people, it will take time to understand gender and sexuality issues that do not directly affect them. 

Q: Coming back to the present day and your hopes for the future, what are your biggest dreams for yourself and the community you serve? 

Alfred and his colleagues—Bandile with Bennie—beam with pride after concluding a successful community outreach session in Gugulethu.

Alfred: If I had all the money in the world, I would implement peer-led solutions like the Mentor Mother Model and Project AMPLIFY in every situation that affects our communities. In the absence of that, I want to say thank you to everyone who supports what we do at m2m and hope that they will continue supporting us in making primary healthcare accessible and universal health coverage a reality. 

 

As we close out Pride Month, it’s inspiring to hear about the dedication and impact of Family Mentors like Alfred, who are on the frontlines and are making a difference to the lives of GBMSM in South Africa. Through Project AMPLIFY, m2m is breaking down barriers, fostering inclusive health-seeking behaviour, and creating a supportive environment for some of the most vulnerable populations. By continuing to expand and refine our proven peer-led model, we move closer to achieving universal health coverage and ending HIV as a public health threat by 2030. A massive thank you to Alfred for openly sharing his experiences and for his unwavering commitment to this crucial work. 

Back To Top
×Close search
Search