The Chapel Street Clinic in Woodstock and the South African Network of People Who Use Drugs (SANPUD) commemorated International Women’s day on Monday March 8 by offering their services to 76 street women.
The women were tested for cervical cancer, TB, HIV, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Sister Ntombizilungile Mjezu, who manages the clinic, organised with the help from SANPUD to give the women a safe space to talk about their bodies and health.
“The need to set aside two days to focus on women who are street-based and use drugs is to counter their experiences with healthcare workers and services,” she says.
Loren Blake was one of the women who came for tests.
“The new tests scared me, but the doctor did her job well to help me calm down even though the pap smear was scary and new,” she says.
Ms Blake says the experience was good for her and she will be telling other women about it.
“The nurses were more than 100%, they were willing to talk to us and explain things about the tests and the results,” she says.
Another street woman who goes by the name of Coco says having a pap smear was difficult.
“Even though they tell you to relax, it is hard with your legs in a funny position and they are talking about your muscles down there,” she says.
CEO of SANPUD, Angela McBride says International Women’s Day forms part of Human Rights month in South Africa.
“It is imperative that we acknowledge that women who use drugs have a right to comprehensive health care and services dedicated, and designed for, and by, women who use drugs,” she says.
Ms McBride says in order to deal with the disparities in health care rights and services for people who are marginalised more investment needs to be made to include them and showcase their humanity too.