Avail Stigma-free, Comprehensive LGBTQ+ Healthcare Information and Services

By Alvin Mwangi

The Constitution of Kenya provides every one with the right to the highest attainable standards of health-care including Reproductive health. However Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) Persons and Community still face pockets of stigma and discrimination in the public health sector.

Unfortunately the Sexual and gender minorities have been denied healthcare services because of their sexual orientation. This has created major obstacles for them realizing their right to health as guaranteed within the Constitution and to further advance the Universal health coverage plan amongst other national and global goals.

LGBTQ+ persons in Kenya face high rates of sexual and gender based violence and face obstacles accessing justice, health and rehabilitative mental health services. The LGBTQ+ persons should be protected just like any other citizen of Kenya against all forms of violence and discrimination.

We must understand that access to Good health and well-being should not exclude the LGBTQ+ persons and communities. No one should be left behind on access to Comprehensive health including reproductive health services.

The LGBTQ+ Community face a lot of stigma in accessing reproductive health services. According to a NASCOP Report of 2014, Discrimination, stigma, and a public perception that key populations are at odds with the law expose them to sexual and physical violence and impede their access to healthcare, increasing their vulnerability to infection. The findings of a recent NASCOP study showed that 22% of Female Sex Workers (FSW), 17% of Men who have sex with Men (MSM), and 8% of Persons Who Inject Drugs (PWID) had been subjected to sexual violence, including rape, during the preceding six months[1]

It is unfortunate that Sexual and gender minorities avoid seeking health services rather than risk having their privacy violated by service providers. LGBTQ+ community faces a lot of discrimination and violence, all LGBTQ+ persons have a right to equality and freedom from discrimination of all forms. All LGBTQ+ persons require equal protection against any form of violence. The right to equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and fundamental freedoms.

The LGBTQ+ community does not want special rights, basic human rights are not special rights; the right to get and keep a job based on merit is not a special right, the right to be served food in a restaurant is not a special right, the right to have housing is not a special right, the right to walk down a street and not be attacked because of who you are and whom you love is not a special right, the right to access high standard healthcare is not a special right.

Criminalization, discrimination and violence inhibit access to HIV prevention and treatment. Men who have sex with Men (MSM) are many times more likely to be infected with HIV than the general population in Kenya and have been identified by health agencies as a key population in addressing the HIV epidemic.

Kenya should commit to end all forms of violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, by publicly condemning any major instances of homophobic and transphobic violence that occur in the counties and in the country in general especially when accessing health services.

Within the county’s health departments, developing departmental level activities that encourage strong participation by members of the Sexual and Gender Minorities group is vital. We need to respect and protect human rights in healthcare access, as well as in our laws, policies and programmes. We must all work together to combat inequalities and discriminatory practices so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of good health, no matter their age, sex, race, religion, health, status, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.

During this Pride month and Beyond, The Ministry of Health, working with county governments need to develop, widely and comprehensively implement strategies and initiatives that will help fight stigma and discrimination and work with stakeholders to promote the rights of LGBTQ+ Community, both in and outside the health sector.

Alvin Mwangi

Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights Advocate

Network of Adolescents and Youth of Africa (NAYA Kenya)

Nairobi, Kenya

Twitter: @alvinmwangi254

[1] National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP), Kenya. 2014. National Behavioral Assessment of Key Populations in Kenya: Polling Booth Survey Report. Nairobi: Ministry of Health

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