The office block, hidden deep in a middle level estate in Kisumu, was all quiet, save for a few chirping birds perched on tall trees in the compound. A hawk-eyed guard, ushered us in, after confirming we had an appointment with the boss.
After a few procedures, we were led into a well-furnished, expansive room where we came face-to-face with a group of smartly dressed young men. They sat in twos, their fingers caressing one another.
They are all men, but among them are those playing the role of girlfriend. The “girls” shyly stare at us, their ‘sexy’ hairstyles and ‘soft’ faces sparkling with fresh makeup.
The clinic run by a non-governmental organisation – Men against Aids Youth Organisation (MAAYGO) is exclusively for the gay and lesbians whose increasing number in Kisumu has alarmed the Church.
MAAYGO’s leaders and members are all gay and others transgender; both infected and affected by HIV. Most of its clients are aged between 18 and 35.
The clinic offers HIV prevention, care, treatment, and support services, while promoting their sexual reproductive health. Kisumu has in the past one year realised an increase in homosexuals. The clinic has enrolled 2,113 homosexuals.
By March 2018, Kisumu’s gay population had grown to 3,500. “The number is growing. I am sure there are many more who still fear coming out,” said a senior official at MAAYGO, who will only call Ken for security reasons. Ken said about 700 of the gay men are married with children, including a pastor, high school and university students and teachers.
A 20-year-old university student, who admitted being a sex worker, said his parents know about his dealings.
“I have trust worthy clients from Nairobi, Mombasa and other key towns in Kenya who call me for my services. I was with a client in Ukwala, Siaya County two days ago,” he said.
Alfred (not his real name) said he was sexually violated at 14 by his school football coach and ever since he developed attraction to fellow men.
“I am now a sex worker who moves from one brothel to another; my clients pay well. Finding an alternative job is not an option for me,” he said.
Another MAAYGO beneficiary, Geoffrey (not real name) recounted how his uncle lured him to have sex with him when he was only 12. “I am HIV positive and I have been raped four times by other gay men from the brothel,” he said.
Steve (not his real name), laments how his family forced him to marry. He ended up settling down with a lesbian who understands him.
“We have two children, my wife has a lesbian partner as I possess multiple gay partners,” he said. “We both come to MAAYGO for counseling on how we can raise our children,” said Steve.
A beneficiary and peer educator at MAAYGO, said he has identified about 40 gay men in Kondele area in the last four years. He is married with two children and neither his wife nor his family know about his condition.
A clinician at the clinic, Laura Alivitsa, said she and her colleagues treat the men for free when it comes to HIV-related diseases but anal wart treatment goes up to Sh15,000.
“We refer some patients to Kisumu County Hospital, Railways Dispensary, Jaramogi Teaching and Referral Hospital and Migosi Hospital,” said Alivitsa.
The Church has reacted angrily to reports of the spread of homosexual activities in Kisumu and want police to crack down on those involved.
Catholic Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Kisumu Fr Moses Omollo said the Church is aware of the vicious activities: “It is a human weakness and the Church’s stand is clear. Such activities must be condemned,” he said.
Rev (Prof) David Kodia of Bondo Anglican Church of Kenya Diocese said it is sad homosexuality continued to thrive even though it is illegal in Kenya. “We must condemn this illegal activity. Church leaders and politicians must not bury their heads in the sand,” said Prof Kodia.
When contacted, Kisumu County Police Commander John Kamau said police in the area are not aware of the existence of such a population.
“I will consult my all the Officers Commanding Police Stations (OCs) to confirm the reports,” said Kamau.