Kenyan gay inmates in need of condoms to curb HIV infections

The subject of homosexuality is almost a taboo in the Kenya Society with many hoping that one day the topic will disappear into thin air and morality as many would put it will reign.

But the practice is rife in Kenya especially in the correctional facilities where men engage in sexual intercourse with fellow men, fueling the spread of HIV in the country.

V reducing new infections significantly, but there is a group that has been forgotten “the prisoners.”

Daniel Nzioka, an openly gay Kenyan, says that you can’t achieve much in the war against HIV if you exclude homosexuals from State programmes.

“How can we fight HIV we don’t include men who have sex with men?” poses Daniel.

Homosexuality among male prisoners is rife, and with unpleasant food and small inhabitable rooms the prisoners are forced to engage in the vice in exchange for preferential treatment.

Calvin Wafula, not his real name served his prison sentence at the Naivasha Maximum Prison and many inmates are forced to engage in the vice for favours such as better sanitation, food and even resting areas.

“When I was brought to the prison, I realized some of my colleagues use to get preferential treatment, good food including meat while I was fed on vegetables every day. So one night a man approached me at night, and he begun touching me but I resisted but he told me if a accept I will have get special treatment, get better food and even bedding.”

It is very difficult for a person of African descent to openly discuss homosexuality since majority condemn the act, in fact many do not believe homosexuality exists.

But Juma Nzuga who served at the Shimo la Tewa Prison in Mombasa County says prior to his arrest, he could not stand the idea of men having sex with each other but he was raped in prison and got used to it, now he says it is impossible to revert.

“I was attacked by a fellow inmate at the Shomo la Tewa Prison, he was huge. He blindfolded me, threw me to the ground and raped me over and over and that became a habit.”

Because of that, Calvin has appealed to the government to avail condoms in prisons to bring down HIV transmission rates.

“A huge percentage of new inmates in prison are raped, so the government should avail condoms in the prison one can use.”

But Deputy Director at the National Aids and STI Control Program Martin Sirengo says that is impossible, insisting that the behaviour goes against morality and even the laws of the Kenya.

“It is impossible to avail condoms in correctional facilities because as we all know in prisons male and female inmates are separated, so when you avail condoms to the prisons what are you telling the world?”

Sobie Mulindi, a former director at the National Aids Control Program says the government should ensure that each and every Kenyan has access to condoms without discriminating.

“If condoms are used correctly and consistently, they can prevent the spread of HIV so we want everyone to access condoms freely without discrimination. We are saying that condoms cannot be hidden in the toilets. We want them to be made available and accessible to everyone who needs them.”

Outside the prison walls, former inmates including gay men are stigmatized. Daniel says whenever he walks around people regroup and start whispering.

“There is a lot of violence against the gay men. We cannot access health care services. When you go to the hospital, the doctors would whisper come and see a gay man!”

Homosexuality has been outlawed in the country and those found culpable risk serving up to 14 years in prison.

The big question is, will we continue to turn a blind eye on the matter or deal with it and save lives?

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