Kenyan MSM Groups Health and Wellness Initiative to Highlight Discrimination

Published: August 5, 2011

Kenya’s ISHTAR-MSM is set to hold an MSM Health and Wellness Day on Friday, August 5, aimed at providing education on health issues faced by the MSM community.

This function will be held to help highlight the situation where men who have sex with men (MSM) still face discrimination at government health institutions.

On the day, a range of activities have been planned. These include HIV Testing and Counselling services, Health education, Vocational training and a Human Rights talk.

Peter Njane, Director of ISHTAR-MSM said, “One of the challenges that we are facing is that most MSM’s are afraid to come and test, which is why the prevalence is so high, we encourage them to come and test, in order for them to know they status, and to reduce the number of infections. Another challenge that we are currently facing is the growing number of Sexual Transmitted Infections (STI) amongst MSM’s, this is mainly because we have focused primarily of HIV/Aids education and ignored STI’s, we are currently trying to work towards providing educational material on STI’s because are finding more MSM’s getting infected with STI’s.”

While acknowledging that many MSM’s in Kenya and elsewhere are reluctant to come out of the closet, Njane explained how they hoped to attract them to the event, “We have previously trained about 176 peer educators, and they all must come with a friend on the day for the training, so we are expecting quite a number of participants on Friday.”

ISHTAR-MSM advances the sexual health rights MSM, Male sex workers and Transgendered men. This community is classified globally as the Most at Risk Population (MARPS) in relation to vulnerability to HIV/Aids and STIs.

According to a 2008 Modes of Transmission study conducted by UNAIDS and the government, MSM and prisoners account for 15.2 per cent of new HIV infections in Kenya annually.

The report reads in part, “Current statistics suggests that HIV prevalence amongst MSM’s is at 15. 2 per cent which indicates that not enough is being done to respond to HIV infections amongst the MARPs.”

Underlining the need to stop discrimination against MSM, Njane said, “We gave recommendations on the National Aids Strategic plan, everything is on paper but nothing has been done on the ground. We mentioned that if they want to respond to the challenge of MSM HIV prevalence, government needs to work with organisations on the ground that are already doing the work. We have stressed the issue of funding over and over again. No organisation working with MSM’s in Kenya is funded by the government. As much as they give us condoms, we also need lubricants and various other things.”

The third Kenya National Aids Strategic Plan, which runs from 2009/2010 to 2012/2013, was launched in Nairobi, on January 12 last year. It aims to reduce new infections by at least 50 per cent over the next four years and focus more on MARPs.

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