Awareness, advocacy and human rights based approach as a tool for improving existing health care facilities to carter to lesbians, gay, bisexuals, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community in Kenya

Published: July 18, 2010

Awareness, advocacy and human rights based approach as a tool for improving existing health care facilities to carter to lesbians, gay, bisexuals, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community in Kenya

G.V. Owino

ISHTAR MSM, Health, Nairobi, Kenya

Issues: Kenya continues to have laws that condemn homosexuals, a medical curriculum that identifies them as “diversions” and a health care system that discriminates and stigmatizes them. This has made the LGBTI community shy away from accessing treatment and demanding representation in planning and priority-setting processes for HIV/AIDS. As a result less or no resources are devoted to programs targeting them and thus the widening incidence of HIV among them.

Description: Two data collection methods were used a) Qualitative Survey here questionnaires and oral interviews where the data collection tools; respondents where from the medical profession, and LGBTI community which including organizations and individuals aged between 18 to 65 years. Most where contacted through a forum and within their organizations. b) In-depth interviews conducted after a forum that was aimed at strengthening the capacity of health care providers to safeguard the rights of sexual minorities. A total of 100 and another of 60 people including health care providers, LGBTI people, medical students and human rights activists from Nairobi and its neighbourhoods participated.

Lessons learned: It was noted that Kenya has unacceptably few friendly LGBTI health centers, HIV/AIDS and also STI programs. However, through a forum bring them together with health workers, medical students and human rights activist, attitudes and perceptions were changed, position softened and a call for human rights based approach be applied when giving treatment agreed on. Some health care workers even volunteered their time to advocate for them to their colleagues and policy makers.

Next steps: As a way forward a call was made for more forums, to be conducted across the country to educate and advocate health workers and medical students on the human rights of LGBTI people, in order to make health care accessible to them and reduce the HIV prevalence.

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