, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 5 – Special Programmes Minister Esther Murugi who has come under sharp criticism over comments she made on homosexuality, maintains that gays and lesbians in Kenya must be involved in HIV/AIDS programmes.
Ms Murugi said on Tuesday that the gay community which is classified under high risk HIV/AIDS populations also had a right to healthcare like all other Kenyans and should not be stigmatised.
She was however categorical that homosexuality should not be legalised in the country but said the underlying issues had to be addressed without fear or shame.
"First of all, I as Murugi would like to say that my upbringing does not approve of gay marriage or even homosexuality so I do not approve of it. Everybody must understand," the Minister stressed.
"But these people are here with us and I do not know whether you want us to kill them, or what these people who are causing so much hullabaloo want us to do with (homosexuals)," she stated.
The Minister noted that 33 percent of new HIV infections annually came from the high risk populations who include commercial sex workers, intravenous drug users, gays and lesbians.
She asked parents and the church to take charge of guiding young people.
"Why are they joining the club? That\’s what we need to find out first. By the time somebody becomes gay or a lesbian, it is not something that happens overnight. We as parents must have failed because we should have seen the tell-tale signs and counselled them to ensure that they did not go that direction," Ms Murugi said.
The Minister was provoked a storm when she made comments touching on homosexuality at a conference in Mombasa last week but says she was quoted out of context.
"I think some have even said that they are going to demonstrate against me, some even declared that I should be sacked, somebody has said that I should even apologise. I don\’t know what I am supposed to apologise for. We have to learn how to live with these people because they are there and we are not going to wish them away," she stated.
National Aids Control Council Director Alloys Orago said they were conducting a study on the high risk HIV/AIDS population to have statistics and include them in HIV/AIDS programmes.
"When we talk about involving most at risk populations in programme activities, we are talking about their participation in the design of the project, their involvement in the implementation of the activities and them being part and parcel of the review of interventions and determining what results are working for Kenya," Professor Orago said.
"With this we hope to deal with stigma and expect that they (gays) will be empowered to come out in the open without fear," she said.