UKZN students honoured for key research into LGBT health issues

Two students from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, who also identify as LGBT, have inspired other young members of the community after being honoured with Master’s degrees for their breakthrough research into key health issues faced by queer communities.

Sthembiso Pollen Mkhize graduated with a Master’s in Population Studies for exploring the disproportionate burdens confronted by sexual minorities within the province when seeking sexual health services. Astonishingly, Mkhize funded his entire studies after his father refused to do so for
being gay.

“My study is close to my heart. Being a proud, young gay man, I was happy to contribute to the limited research on the sexual and reproductive health of the LGBT community”, he said.

“I believe my research is beneficial 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.

He advised other students to, “Never be intimidated. 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”.

Graduating cum laude with his Master of Arts, Melusi Mntungwa researched the communicative practices, attitudes and perceptions of Black Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM) in relation to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).

His dissertation explored whether men knew about PrEP within the Msunduzi Municipality, and whether they’d be willing to take it as a HIV preventative.

Mntungwa was able to recognise that despite PrEP being approved by the Medicines Council of South Africa in 2015, there was little that had been done to have the drug implemented to key populations such as Black Men Who Have Sex with Men.

“It felt like these men’s voices were not being heard, and I wanted to in my small academic way lend a voice to this group of sidelined men,” says Mntungwa.

Mntungwa’s findings suggest the implementation of a programme and education about the drug would better the use of it, especially, within the non-metropolitan areas.