Bridging the gap: Lobby group steps in to guarantee equal health rights for gay community

By Jackson Ambole Okata

In 2018,when Johnsen Kariuki visited a public hospital to seek treatment  for  a sexually transmitted infection, the reaction he received from the doctor  added more pain and misery to his already bad situation

“When I told him what I was suffering from, he asked me how and why a man would suffer from a female infection,” he told this writer in an interview.

Dejected and feeling abused, Joseph walked out of the public hospital without being treated and stayed with the infection for a whole month until “God sent help his way”

After being denied treatment at a public hospital, Johnsen was lucky to get help through a  linkage he got from a friend .

“I opened up to a friend about my predicament and he referred me to a gay lobby which then linked me to a private doctor, “said Johnsen.

Homophobia

For members of the Kenyan gay community, seeking and accessing sexual health services in public hospitals is something they cannot dare dream of.

Discrimination, blackmail, harassment, intimidation, and homophobia are some of the expected challenges gay persons  meet when seeking health services in Kenyan public health facilities  that are not LGBTQ friendly.

Perturbed by difficulties faced by the gay community in accessing  sexual related health services from public facilities and to  close this gap and provide a solution to this challenge, a gay rights organization based in Nakuru Kenya took the initiative of helping its members in need of health services by linking them to gay friendly private clinics and doctors across the city.

 The private clinics and doctors have been coming in handy for gay persons  seeking sexual health services .

The organisation dubbed equal health rights for all(EHRA) has a list of gay friendly doctors and clinics who many at times offer free or discounted services to gay persons.

Patrick Singor, the founder, and director of the organisation says that many gay persons would rather battle a a sexual  infection silently than seek help from a government facility

“We have had cases of gay persons resorting to using over the counter medicines to treat sicknesses they do not know while others resort to unauthorised herbal medicine that end up making things worse,” he said

“ As an organisation, even though the government has refused to register us formally, we have saved hundreds of gay persons who are or were in dire need of medical attention,” he added

Singor noted that  through its connections and working partnerships with gay friendly health service providers, the organization also distributes sexual health products like condoms, ARV’s, lubes among other effects  to its members.

Free treatment

 It also organizes free medical check-ups for its members  in partnership with the private clinics.

 “Today if by bad lack a gay person is sexually assaulted, he is unlikely to get help and treatment in a public health facility and there is where our partners come in” Singor noted

Brian Kedigo, battled with anal watts for six months but pulled through thanks to the treatment he received from a private doctor partnering with the organisation

“My situation was worse because I did not know that I was suffering from anal watts until during a free medical check-up organised by EHRA when a doctor described my situation as near chronic,’’

“I was put on treatment and the doctor walked with me through the process for six months until I was fully cured’’ said Kedigo

Privacy

To guarantee safety and security of her members seeking health and sexual reproductive health services, the organisation has created  a safe space where clinics are held on appointed days

A doctor partnering with the organisation and who sought anonymity said that majority of gay persons who receive their services are victims of sexual harassment and violence and those battling sexually transmitted infections

“Most of them come to seek help when it’s too late and I can tell you in most cases it takes much time to arrest the situation,” said the Doctor.

According to EHRA, most of those who seek their help are not able to pay for medical care something which forces the doctors and clinics  linked to them to offer pro-bono services

Singor says that since its  establishment in 2017, his organisation has helped treat 30 gay persons who were sexually assaulted and 100 others who had sexually transmitted infections.

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