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Kenya to launch homosexual census

Men holding hands
Homosexuality is punishable by 14 years in jail in Kenya

Kenya is to carry out a census of its gay population in an effort to bolster the fight against HIV/Aids - despite homosexuality being against the law.

Nicholas Muraguri, head of Kenya's Aids prevention programme Nascop, told the BBC it was vital that the government reached out to the gay community.

He said gay people suffered from a lack of information about the disease.

But analysts say many gay people will be afraid to come forward in a country where homosexuality can result in jail.

Mr Muraguri conceded that an accurate count was unlikely.

FROM BBC WORLD SERVICE

But he told the BBC's Network Africa programme that getting a clearer idea of the number of gay people would be a huge help with targeted interventions such as provision of condoms.

He said the survey would involve gay men identifying each other, and officials carrying out HIV tests and providing along with information on safe sexual practice.

"Kenyans cannot actually afford to say that the gay community are isolated somewhere in the corner - they are part of our lives," he said.

"This group must be reached with information and services so they know how to protect themselves from getting infected."

Census first

Analysts say Kenya has made progress in its fight against HIV/Aids - one-in-10 people had the virus in the late 1990s, a rate that has now fallen to 6%.

There's no information here about safety measures
Gay rights activist Peter Njane

The BBC's Gladys Njoroge in Nairobi says the census, which will begin in June next year, will be the first of its kind in Africa.

Gay rights activist Peter Njane told the BBC he was optimistic that the survey would play a key role in the fight against HIV.

"Most of the gay community think that having sex with men is safe. There's no information here about safety measures," he said.

But Kenyans are divided over the survey's impact, with some Nairobi residents saying they did not believe it would help control the spread of Aids.

Gay Kenyans told the BBC they would be willing to be counted - but only if their identities were protected.

Homosexual activity is punishable by up to 14 years in jail in Kenya.



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