The Guard

The Truth On Board

Beyond Zero’s Key Pop Hub and Call Centre

By Emily Setona

BLOEMFONTEIN – Key populations, including LGBTQIA+ individuals, sex workers, and people who inject drugs have unique healthcare needs. Despite facing stigma and discrimination, these populations often do not receive adequate healthcare services. The Key Pop Hub and Beyond Zero’s Key Population Helpline Centre seeks to bridge this gap and provide inclusive and comprehensive healthcare and psychosocial support to those who need it most.

Beyond Zero’s Key Population Helpline Centre is a toll-free helpline dedicated to providing essential health education, psychosocial support, and referral to biomedical services to new and current beneficiaries/clientele. We understand the unique challenges faced by these communities, in particular stigma which is a major barrier for accessing health services and our team of trained counsellors are dedicated to offering a listening ear and expert advice.
Clients can expect the following services from the helpline: holistic support addressing mental health, substance abuse, and social issues, referral and linkage to biomedical, mental health and social services, legal assistance and education on HIV treatment and gender reassignment for TG individuals, confidential and compassionate counselling tailored to key population’s needs.

The dedicated team is committed to providing a safe and supportive space for those who seek help and guidance, whether it is assisting with coping with a recent diagnosis, navigating disclosure, or seeking support for addiction or grief, the helpline is there every step of the way for our clientele.

The help line operates between 08:00 and 17:00 during weekdays and can be reached on 08000 60 038 to support every key population’s health journey.
The Key Pop Hub offers a range of FREE services tailored to the needs of key populations, including HIV counselling and testing, screening for TB, STIs, and cervical cancer, sexual and reproductive health services, social support and mental health services, case management and care coordination, harm reduction services, condom and lubricant programming, PrEP, and establishing initial linkages with resource agencies. These services reflect our commitment to taking a holistic approach to community health and addressing the diverse needs of our clients.

The Key Pop Hub has provided service to 199 clients. Those that have accessed the services have expressed satisfaction with the convenience of access as it located in the CBD of Bloemfontein.
According to Glen Chaka – a client at Key Pop Hub – this is a safe space that allows the key population to be themselves while getting the necessary health care treatment they need.

“Over the years we have been concerned with the treatment we’ve been getting from health care practitioners at the public health care services. This is a safe space where we can interact with each other while waiting to get our services and it is really a place where we can come and be ourselves and debrief,” Chaka said.
Other clients also shared the same sentiments as Chaka and said this is a safe space for them.

Health care practitioners at the key population health care center in Middestad Mall.

In an interview with The Guard, the key populations programme manager at Beyond Zero, Edward Sibanda, said: “Key populations namely men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers and people who use drugs face ongoing challenges in accessing the health services they need. This is due to stigma and discrimination at the hands of some health care providers. It is exacerbated by cultural beliefs which prohibit behaviour considered “abnormal”. This combined stigma leads to significant barriers to accessing comprehensive prevention, care, and treatment services.”

Beyond Zero recently launched the Key Pop Hub and Beyond Zero’s Key Population Helpline Centre to ensure that key populations access health, psychosocial, socio-economic, and recreational services. This allows for key populations to gather, have conversations, or receive support in a setting free from stigma, judgement, or discrimination.