For trans men in South Africa, a shortage of HRT is proving painful and upsetting – INTO
Testosterone shortages are forcing many transgender and non-conforming people to make a choice between derailing their transition or turning to the black market, the Thomson Reuters Foundation/Gay Times report.
Month-long shortages have been documented in South Africa since 2015, and these have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The affordable option for hormone injections, Depo-Testosterone, is patented by Pfizer. Recently, Pfizer ceded resources to the production and distribution of its coronavirus vaccine, leaving trans consumers in limbo.
“These shortages disrupt our self-esteem,” said Josh Stols, a 29-year-old trans South African. “It’s like someone with mental health issues can’t get their medicine. [Testosterone] is what we rely on to look in the mirror and see ourselves – without it it’s like walking around blind. The risk of not getting it is suicide.
As consumers wait for shortages to end, those who cannot afford more expensive brands are often turning to the black market. It basically means taking a chance on illegal products that are largely designed to give weightlifters more muscle mass in the gym. The risks associated with these types of performance enhancers can include mood swings and blood clotting.
At the same time, the mental health risks of not receiving hormone treatments have also been exacerbated by the pandemic, with in-person support groups becoming harder to find.
While the pandemic provides an excuse, some consumers have pointed to past shortages as evidence that Pfizer has always viewed the availability of hormone treatments as a low priority. “The thing is, it happened often, too often now, as if it was a gross neglect of the trans community, as if we weren’t seen as important enough,” Nicholas Snyman said. , a Pretoria resident who was coerced into taking testosterone. through a friend at the gym.
In an email to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a Pfizer spokesperson said the company was “actively working to mitigate any supply disruptions.” They did not respond to follow-up questions on specific details.