A group of Kenyan health-care and human-rights organizations delivered a strong message to Kenyan officials today:
Stop inflaming anti-gay tensions. They hinder the fight against HIV / Aids.
At a press conference, the groups warned of “devastating consequences of the inflammatory statements towards lesbians and gay Kenyans.”
“These statements and intolerant comments towards lesbian and gay Kenyans are ill-advised and un-African,” the 20 organizations said in a press release.
In the past, such anti-gay rhetoric has scared people in need of HIV services so much that they stopped going to health centers.
The groups asked for “immediate reassurance of security and protection for Key Populations including sex workers, men who have sex with men and injecting drug users that are currently unable to access health programmes and services, including adherence programs to HIV treatment, due to concerns around their personal security and welfare.”
This is today’s press release by the Kenyan health-care and human-rights organizations:
NAIROBI, JULY 8TH, 2015 –We the undersigned CSOs [civil society organizations] are highly concerned and disappointed by the ongoing ant-gay rhetoric led by various political leaders in this country at this time. While it is couched as a response to the US Supreme Court decision and the upcoming President Obama visit to our country, we categorically state that these statements and intolerant comments towards Lesbian and Gay Kenyans are ill-advised and un-African and come with devastating consequences. We wish to reiterate Cabinet Minister Macharia’s statement on February 19th 2014, regarding the detrimental effects of anti-homosexuality debates and incitement on national health programming.
HIV continues to be a major national problem in Kenya. We cannot ignore the fact that a third of all new HIV infections are attributed to Key Populations namely sex workers (SW), men who have sex with men (MSM) and people who inject drugs (PWID). It is in our public health interest for this country to continue to reach out to these groups because they are they are part of our society.
The Kenyan Constitution guarantees access to the highest attainable quality of health services to all without discrimination as part of the Rights and Fundamental freedoms under the Bill of Rights. The Ministry of Health has consistently endeavoured to fulfill this obligation in providing the Key Populations with a national health programme and services; its Kenya AIDS Strategic Framework (KASF) Strategic Direction 3 is clear on the need to use a human rights approach to facilitate said access. State endorsement of the same is evidenced by the Deputy President’s remarks on 3rd July 2013 where he said that; “Although Kenya has diverse religious and cultural positions, the Government has an obligation to provide inclusive and effective services to all including sex workers, people who use drugs, men who have sex with men and people in prisons”. This is in alignment with the KASF, which states, “The success of the HIV response is dependent on protecting and promoting the rights of those who are socially excluded, marginalized and vulnerable”. We reiterate our appreciation to the Government and its agencies for always trying to deliver qualified and targeted health services to our sub-populations.
Programming has been fairly successful in controlling HIV transmission among our Key Populations and by extension Kenyans in general. However, criminalized Key Population activities make access to health services difficult due to discrimination and violence from surrounding communities.
In order to achieve the national health outcomes as clearly highlighted in government policy documents such as Vision 2030, Kenya Health Policy, The HIV and AIDS Strategic Framework, The Key Populations Policy etc., all Kenyans must be able to access health services without the fear of risking their lives.
The current inflammatory rhetoric stemming from the anti-homosexuality debates presents a significant barrier to Kenya achieving these goals. From past experience whenever our political leaders stoke these debates, many Key Population members stop accessing services due to fear of discrimination or attacks at health centres and their homes across the country.
As fellow Kenyans, the CSO community is committed to addressing both systemic and emerging injustices and inequalities in the society. In so doing, we recommend the following:
- An immediate cessation of State-sanctioned homophobia witnessed in the inflammatory statements associated with high-ranking government officials.
- The immediate reassurance of security and protection for Key Populations including sex workers, men who have sex with men and injecting drug users that are currently unable to access health programmes and services, including adherence programs to HIV treatment due to concerns around their personal security and welfare.
- That the Ministry of Health through its relevant lead agencies comes out and educates the Kenyan public on the impact of the current homophobic environment on its ability to reach out to Key Populations, jeopardising the goodwill that has been developed over many years – and threatening the realization of superior health outcomes for ALL Kenyans.
- A sustained approach to policy reform by key state and non-state actors in removing legislative barriers to the Public Health Imperative.
That the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM) and the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) revisit national level support as aligned to their well-articulated guidelines.
- That all citizens including Key populations in Kenya be treated with respect and dignity as enshrined in the Constitution of Kenya.
- That we as Kenyan citizens reflect deeply on the role that each and every one of us must play in entrenching our position as the most progressive flagship country in Africa.
- The government guarantees Freedom and Security of all Kenyans regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- The Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK)
- Ishtar MSM
- Health Options for Young Men Against HIV/STIs (HOYMAS)
- Minority Women in Action (MWA)
- Minority Persons Empowerment Group (MPEG)
- Q-Initiative (Q-I)
- Tamba Pwani
- The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC)
- Nyanza Rift Valley Western Kenya Network (NYARWEK)
- Voices of Women in Western Kenya (VOWEK)
- Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya (NEPHAK)
- The Key Populations Consortium
- The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC)
- The National Coalition for Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD)
- Constitution and Reform Education Consortium (CRECO)
- Akiba Uhaki
- Coalition for Constitution Implementation (CCI)
- Society for International Development (SID)