OUT is the second-oldest active LGBTQ+ organisation in South Africa. Here are some landmark events and achievements in the evolution of the organisation over the years.


Formation of OUT

OUT was founded alongside the dawning of democracy in South Africa by a small group of friends wanting to ‘do something’ for the LGBTQ+ community. The organisation’s first steps included weekly Sunday social gatherings. In December 1994, a volunteer counselling and information line was launched, housed in the Pretoria city centre. Other early projects included the Uthingo Women’s group, a coffee shop, and creating community spaces. OUT was also an active member of the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality which did advocacy work in the early days of the new South Africa.


Opening of first MSM clinic in Gauteng

OUT opened the first MSM clinic in Gauteng in 1997, located in Hatfield, Pretoria. It was funded by the Gauteng Department of Health with services limited to peer behavioural interventions and HIV testing. No medication was provided at this point although clients were linked to public health and private health service providers. Over time, other more comprehensive HIV/AIDS related services were added.


The formation of the Joint Working Group

In 2003, through the support of the Schorer Foundation (the Netherlands), OUT facilitated the start of the Joint Working Group. This was a coalition of seven LGBTQ+ community groups focused on undertaking combined research, producing an information booklet, and increasing lesbian visibility. A major achievement was the completion of the first quantitative research on LGBT hate crimes in South Africa in 2003; a study which was repeated by OUT in 2016.


Role in legalising same-sex marriage

OUT was a co-applicant in the historic legal challenge that led the Constitutional Court to affirm that the denial of same-sex marriage rights was unconstitutional. As part of the Joint Working Group, OUT also helped make submissions to Parliament and actively lobbied the South African government to pass legislation to legalise same-sex unions and marriages. The Civil Union Act was finally signed into law on 29 November 2006, making South Africa the first country on the continent to recognise same-sex marriages and civil unions.


Upscaling of health services

In 2009, OUT received its first funding from the Presidential Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). It was funding from the Centre for Disease Control through the Medical Research Council and focussed on alcohol use and HIV risks.


Opening of the TEN81 integrated clinic in Pretoria

Gauteng’s MEC for Health, Ms Qedani Mahlangu, officially opened OUT’s TEN81 Clinic on Thursday 3 September 2015. The ground-breaking clinic was the first in Gauteng to offer integrated services for three key populations at high risk of HIV: Men who have sex with men (MSM), sex workers and people who inject drugs (PWID).


Launch of the Love Not Hate campaign

OUT’s Love not Hate campaign started life as a multi-partner initiative addressing violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons. It was launched in 2015 by John Jeffery, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development. The project has monitored numerous hate crime cases, lobbied for government intervention and hate crime legislation, and assisted dozens of survivors of hate crimes and discrimination through a free para-legal clinic (launched in 2019). Love Not Hate is today known as OUT’s Human Rights programme.


Launch of the EMH programme

Funded by USAID and PEPFAR through the FHI 360 EpiC project, OUT’s Engage Men’s Health project opened the doors to its Johannesburg clinic in June 2019, offering free HIV and related health services. The project also goes out into the community via outreach and mobile services in the Nelson Mandela Bay, Buffalo City and Johannesburg metros. Services include free HIV and STI testing and treatment (ARVs), PrEP and PEP.