Sunday, March 13, 2011

Kenya: How discrimination is a barrier to good health


Complex issues, such as health and poverty, are often best illustrated by following individuals and showing how the issues affect their lives. That is why the Guardian is producing a series of films about some of the global issues that feature in Christian Aid's manifesto for change, Poverty Over.

The first film – on sexuality-based discrimination, human rights and HIV in Kenya – is available to view here on the Guardian's Christian Aid website from Monday. Same-sex relationships are illegal in the country, but prejudice and fear about them go far deeper than that. This film shows how hatred has a negative impact on the health of gay people in Kenya.

Anti-gay feeling is common in Kenya. Some politicians, religious leaders and sections of the media have stirred up this hatred. In November last year, for instance, the prime minister, Raila Odinga, called for a nationwide crackdown on gay people. Odinga ordered the police to arrest anyone found having sex with someone of the same gender and said that the country's constitution made it clear that homosexual activity was not to be tolerated.

This has obvious implications for men who have sex with other men, as they are often unable to access care if they become infected with HIV. Clinics that are known to treat gay men are threatened, medical practitioners may be unwilling to help them, they are often isolated and unable to access any kind of information. Many of these men are married, and risk infecting their wives with HIV.

The red-light areas of large cities in Kenya also show that, despite the rhetoric, there is a thriving gay sex industry. Many of the male sex workers have been thrown out of their family homes for their sexuality; they report that they are often compelled by clients to have sex without condoms.

Yet a growing gay community, and some inspiring gay rights and HIV activists, are doing their best to ensure that more people in Kenya are made aware of safer sex, condoms are made available, and prejudice against men who have sex with other men is addressed.

To find out more, view the film online from Monday, March 14. The site also has other interesting content that will engage, outrage, inspire and inform you, including Thursday webchats (1pm-2pm) when you can post questions for Christian Aid advisers. Additional films will be uploaded every week.


[If an item is not written by an IRMA member, it should not be construed that IRMA has taken a position on the article's content, whether in support or in opposition.]

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