Kenya’s National Aids Control Council (NACC) has taken a progressive step forward by honouring openly-gay senatorial candidate David Kuria for his work in the HIV/Aids field.
Kuria was awarded for his “Outstanding contribution to Key Populations and HIV” at the first-ever National Symposium on HIV, Law and Human Rights in Nairobi this week.
Kuria, co-founder of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), is standing for senator of Kiambu County in upcoming elections next March.
The young activist and politician said in an e-mail that the decision to give a person with a background in LGBT rights advocacy the award “must have taken a great deal of courage for [the] NACC, especially to do it when the Minister for Justice was also the guest of honour for the ceremony”.
He wrote that, “I think they were sending a very clear and strong message about their position on criminalisation and other structural barriers to accessing HIV/AIDS services by our members”.
He further noted that the award “is an indication that the government of Kenya, through [the] NACC, is willing to work more closely with members of key populations” such as gay men, other men who have sex with men, injecting drug users and sex workers.
Local media highlighted calls made at the conference for the government to repeal laws that criminalise homosexuality and sex workers; laws that experts say hinder efforts to tackle the HIV epidemic.
This was a message echoed by Kuria in his letter of thanks to the NACC. He stated that despite the government’s growing willingness to include men who have sex with men in HIV programmes, the need to remove these laws “has never been more urgent”.
Consensual same-sex sex is illegal in Kenya with penalties including five to 14 years imprisonment. In May, Kenya’s human rights watchdog, the National Human Rights Commission, recommended that gay relationships be decriminalised.