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Reprod Health Matters. 2016 May;24(47):185-94. doi: 10.1016/j.rhm.2016.04.005. Epub 2016 May 28.

Sexual rights but not the right to health? Lesbian and bisexual women in South Africa's National Strategic Plans on HIV and STIs.

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Executive Director, Kaleidoscope Trust, UK. Electronic address:
Lecturer, Global Health Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK.
Capacity Development Manager, What Works to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls, Medical Research Council, South Africa.


Synergies between securing sexual rights and the right to health have been pursued where there are clear public health gains to be made, such as lowering incidence of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STI). South Africa's 1996 Constitution outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and promoted the right to health. This qualitative health policy analysis sought to understand why and how interventions to improve sexual health of lesbian and bisexual women and address sexual violence were initially proposed in the HIV & AIDS and STI Strategic Plan for South Africa 2007-2011 and why and how these concerns were deprioritised in the National Strategic Plan (NSP) on HIV, STIs and TB 2012-2016. A conceptual framework considered several determinants of political priority for the inclusion in NSP development in 2007 and 2011 around sexual health concerns of women who have sex with women. This article presents findings from 25 in-depth key informant interviews and document review and highlights results of application of categories for a framework on determinants of political priority for lesbian and bisexual women's issues to be included in South Africa's NSP including: actor power, ideas, political context and issue characteristics. The article demonstrates how the epidemiological and structural drivers of lesbian and bisexual women's vulnerability to HIV and STIs, including sexual violence and other violations of their sexual rights, have been expressed in policy forums and whether this has made an impact on lesbian and bisexual women's ability to claim the right to health.


HIV; South Africa; lesbian; sexual health; sexual rights

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