You have a freedom to speak. The freedom to live. The freedom to be your true self. Do it now.
Can the Kenyan gay community engage in this process?
The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) has commenced a public inquiry into the sexual and reproductive health rights. This inquiry seeks to address public concerns and is informed by increasing reports of deteriorating standards of sexual and reproductive healthcare in both public and private health facilities
The organisation says the inquiring presents a good opportunity for persons who have been affected to present information to the commission and for stakeholders in both public and private sectors to present their positions.
KNCHR is an autonomous National Human Rights Institution established by an Act of Parliament (KNCHR Act of 2002) with the core mandate of protection and promotion of human rights in Kenya. Section 19(1) of the Act empowers the Commission to conduct public inquiries as a means of responding to systematic violations. The inquiry commission is concerned with the status of sexual and reproductive health and violations of citizens’ right to quality healthcare associated thereto.
Activists are urging members of the community to participate in the exercise because gay men encounter challenges accessing sexual and reproductive health services due to stigma and lack of friendly gay health services in hospitals and health centres. HIV and AIDS programming is slowly being rolled out but the rate of infection of HIV and STIs among gay men is alarming.
According to a Mode of Transmission Study, Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) contribute to 15.2 per cent of new HIV infections in Kenya annually. About 60 per cent of the MSM are in heterosexual relationships. This means that close to 10,000 women are at risk of getting HIV from their male partners. On the other hand, according to a John Hopkins University study, if MSM HIV and AIDS programming is rolled out, the rate of HIV infection can be significantly reduced by up to 10 per cent.
Sex and reproductive education for gay men and health information on gay men is particularly scant and there is no comprehensive health package for gay men. This is exacerbated in that many health care providers are not well trained, informed or disposed to handle sex and health issues that are presented to them by gay men. Some infections are self revealing and therefore most gay men, who visit clinics and other health sites, often hide their sexual history and activity out of fear of discrimination.
Research into MSM health has also been hampered. In February 2009, rioters’ attacked and destroyed the KEMRI research centre in Mtwapa, Mombasa that had an MSM desk. This crippled the distribution of free antiretroviral drugs to MSM living with HIV who depended on the clinic for medication. In addition, some gay men were attacked physically and this led to them having to seek further medical treatment. Police arrested and put into custody two MSMs who were on ARV treatment and these two could not access their regime while in custody further threatening their lives.