Kenyan Health Secretary warns anti-homosexuality debate will affect fight against HIV
The ongoing debate on homosexuality in Kenya is likely to affect the fight against HIV, Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia has said.
In a statement, Mr Macharia said Men having Sex with Men are among key groups that contribute to new HIV infections in Kenya and called for a sober approach on the debate.
He said sex workers, Men who have sex with Men (MSM) and people who inject drugs are key populations that accounts for less than 5 per cent of the general population but contributes 33,000 of the 100,000 new HIV infections annually and therefore cannot be ignored
“Over 30 of MSMs are HIV positive and are either on HIV care and treatment or in need of Anti-retroviral Treatment. With the current situation, many eligible MSMs are defaulting from HIV treatment and this is likely to lead to an increase in HIV transmission, incidences of HIV drug resistance and deaths.”
“Following the on-going debate, most of HIV care centres serving Key populations have been closed. In addition, there is increased fear, stigma, discrimination and potential acts of violence against the Key populations, further limiting access to health services while continuing with risky behaviours,” he stated.
He said Men having Sex with Men are not isolated from the general population because most of them are married with children and their clients are also members of the general population.
Mr Macharia said those that are uninfected by HIV are unable to access HIV prevention services, thereby increasing their risk of HIV infection fearing that this will negatively affect HIV prevention and undermine progress made in the fight against HIV / AIDS in Kenya.
He said the Ministry of Health's mandate is limited to health service provision but called for wider and sober discussions and engagement of all stakeholders to provide a more holistic approach in order to address this issue.
Mr Macharia added that key populations’ activities are criminalised which makes access to health services difficult due to fear, stigma and discrimination.
“Ministry of Health therefore has a constitutional obligation to provide health services to all without discrimination. The design of the conventional health systems does not cater for the health needs of the said Key populations,” he said.
This article first appeared in the Daily Nation here.