Kenya: Young LGBT People in Kenya Fight the Odds and Make Life Better for Their Peers

Published: November 7, 2014

Wouter Van Dongen
Original Article:

It’s a hot day in Kisumu, a busy town on the shores of Lake Victoria in western Kenya. As I walk down a crowded street I notice that people are staring at us.

Lily tells me to keep walking. Someone is calling her names. It’s obvious that she’s attracting attention. Physically, Lily looks like a man. Only her hands, which are decorated with nail varnish, a henna tattoo, and bracelets, give away the fact that she feels more like a woman.

Lily tells me she has always felt different, although she never realised why until she was a teenager. Lily’s childhood was not easy. Like so many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Kenya and other African countries she was rejected by her family and ran away from home when she was 14. With hardly any support or money, she started doing commercial sex work a few years later to make a living and pay for her school’s tuition fees.

Being diagnosed with HIV

‘Most men would offer me more money if they could have sex without a condom. Not realising the risks, I often agreed’, she tells me.

Four years ago, Lily was diagnosed with HIV. She’s not the only one. One in five men who have sex with men (MSM) and transwomen in Kisumu has HIV.

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