Promoting the Right to Health of Sexual Minorities

Despite the knowledge of the existence of sexual minorities within its borders, Kenya is one of the countries that either ignore or inadequately addresses the health needs of this community. Consisting of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex persons, sexual minorities are at a higher risk of contracting HIV and other STIs.

For example, Men who have sex with Men (MSM) contribute 15% of HIV infections in Kenya. This can be attributed in part to the various existing challenges that hinder HIV prevention efforts among sexual minority groups. Other factors that contribute to inaccess to healthcare for LGBTI groups can be categorized into:

  • Immediate causes which includes social and self stigma, discrimination, lack of awareness, fear and peer influence.
  • Underlying causes - legal environment, morality, cultural setting, socialization
  • Root causes - Socio- economic factors, biological factors, intolerance

These three causal categories are manifested in medical practitioners' lack of professional training to address the needs of sexual minorities, negative attitudes towards sexual minorities, and denial of the existence of these groups.

Basic human rights obligations to the government and international communities is to provide healthcare to all people as a human right, and consequently to protect their human right to accessing the highest level of healthcare available. Therefore, the sexual minorities should have adequate access to HIV prevention information, commodities, education, and proper care. It is also important that the sexual minorities be included in the formulation and implementation of HIV policies and programmes to advise on strategies to achieve zero new infections.

Moreover, protecting the right to health for sexual minorities not only preserves human dignity but also promotes public health. Neglecting their health needs could put the the general population at risk; it constitutes a non- holistic response to HIV prevention. Therefore, it is important to change the attitude among healthcare providers and medical practitioners to provide services to sexual minorities as well as change of attitude in the community through sensitization. In addition, there is need to have a comprehensive national strategy to address the health needs of sexual minorities.