Include gays in HIV campaigns, Kemri boss says

November 28, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 27 – The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) says the fight against HIV/AIDS cannot be successful if homosexuals are not included in the campaigns.

KEMRI Ethics Committee Chairman Ambrose Rachier said 15 percent of new HIV infections in Kenya are among same sex couples some of whom are also in relationships with people of the opposite sex.

“You do not ignore a population because of their status in law. Even in prison, men are having sex with men. They have rights to health too and you cannot in your HIV interventions afford to ignore the group,” Rachier said.

He estimated a fourth of Kenya’s population to be gay.

Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya official David Kuria said the movement he leads has eight groups under its umbrella with five of them registered as a lawful organizations.

He said the most active groups are those in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu but acknowledged that groups in Eldoret were also emerging actively.

Mr Kuria said due to the increasing numbers of membership in their movement, plans were ongoing to establish a national movement to bring all gays in the country together.

He said they were actively involved in responding to HIV/AIDS and fighting for their rights which have seriously been violated since homosexuality remains widely opposed in Kenya.

“The groups focus on different things including health issues like HIV/AIDS, human rights and legal issues in relation to changing of the law,” he said.

He also said most of their members had relationships with women.

Despite being gay, Mr Kuria said he was married to a woman due to pressure from the society.

But Mr Rachier says the country is in great danger because of ignoring the gay population saying spread of HIV/AIDS is great as most of these people end up operating as bisexuals.

He said there was a contradiction in the Constitution since it called for protection of privacy, right to life and confidentiality among many others in the Bill of Rights yet it also criminalises same sex affairs which if one is found guilty of practicing or promoting can result in a jail term of 14 years.

On the other hand the Constitution condemns discrimination due to sex, race, or religion.

“Same sex is an offence in this country, they call it having sex against the order of nature. But when you look at the Bill of Rights, there is a contradiction, because gay rights are discriminated,” he said.

The government earlier in the month said it would a research to establish the number of homosexuals, heterosexuals and lesbians in the country.

The data will be used in the HIV/AIDS interventions.

Currently the country remains highly opposed to gay relationships despite rising cases of such affairs.


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