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Kenyans told to accept gay reality

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 28 – A Non-Governmental Organisation working with groups that are at higher risk of contracting HIV/AIDS has said Kenyans should accept the reality that same sex relationships are rampant in the country.

Public Health Innovations Executive Director Nguru Kiragu told Capital News on Wednesday that his organisation had interacted widely with many homosexual couples, and cautioned Kenyans to confront the truth instead of sweeping it under the carpet.

"There is evidence that same sex relationships are present. It affects the society because some of them are in relationships and are at risk of HIV or spreading it," said Mr Kiragu whose NGO works with male and female commercial sex workers, gays and lesbians.

He said the majority of such people had heterosexual partners which further increased the risk of the spread of HIV and Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

The social worker further said it was important for same sex partners to be provided with information on safe sex, HIV/AIDs management.

He stressed that ignoring any percentage of a population was a major setback to any health achievements made.

Mr Kiragu said that due to stigmatisation in Kenya, t was difficult to know the number of bisexuals and homosexuals in the country as most of them were unwilling to reveal their status.

Tied to the culture of tradition and religious beliefs in Kenya, gay partners have never been accepted in the society and as a result most of them have continued to thrive in secrecy and even gone to the extent of staying in marriages for the sake of satisfying societal requirements.

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But those who have joined associations and groups somehow can access medical care through different organisations.

One group, the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya has effortlessly been trying to find its footing in the society, a move that has spurred a lot of criticism.

Other organisations include those aimed at responding to HIV/AIDs.

Working examples are three groups consisting of male sex workers in Mombasa who through the International Centre for Reproductive Health-Kenya (ICRH) came together to fight HIV/AIDs.

One of the male sex workers told Capital News: "Most of us thought we could not get or transmit HIV because women were not involved, but after this project I know I am also at risk and I am always careful, together with my fellow peer educators we talk to our partners urging them to use condoms," he said.

"We can now also access medical care unlike before where we were afraid of saying we had infections in such places (anus).  Doctors used to wonder how we got those infections, and due to discrimination in this country men who have sex with other men could not go to hospital."

ICRHI revealed that it had recorded 737 male commercial sex workers.

"We are intending to have proper statistics since homosexuality is not just a problem here.  It is widespread because most of those we spoke to have networks as far as to North Eastern, and everywhere else in the country, but the idea is to sensitise them on HIV/AIDS,"  said an official from ICRH.

Due to the controversial nature of homosexuality and lesbianism, very few health experts dealing with same sex partners want to be quoted.

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