Africa has in the recent past made strides in the fight against HIV reducing new infections significantly, but there is a group that has been forgotten “the inmates.”
Dan, who is openly gay, states that Africa will not achieve much in the war against HIV if they exclude homosexuals from government services.
“How can we fight HIV we don’t include men who have sex with men?” poses Dan.
Homosexuality among male inmates is rife, and with unpleasant food and small inhabitable rooms the inmatesare forced to engage in the vice in exchange for preferential treatment.
Xavier, not his real name, served his prison sentence at a Maximum Prison and many inmates are forced to engage in the vice for favours such as better sanitation, food and even resting areas.
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 Ali who served at one of the 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 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, Xavier 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.
“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 encouraging?”
Sobie Mulindi, a former director at the National Aids Control Program says the government should ensure that each and every African 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 most of the countries in Africa and those found culpable risk being punished.
The big question is, will we continue to turn a blind eye on the matter or deal with it and save lives?