Perturbed by high levels of stigma and discrimination targeting LGBTQ individuals in Kenya, Peter NJane was moved to start, Ishtar MSM, a community-based organisation that has grown into a formidable defender of health rights in a country not so friendly towards its LGBTQ citizens.
Based in Nairobi, Kenya, the community-based Ishtar MSM organisation advances the sexual health rights of queer men and women. It is now an active player in promoting and protecting the right to access healthcare for all gay people.
Gay persons in Kenya always face difficulties and discrimination whenever they seek health services from public health facilities.
Over the recent past, Ishtar MSM centre has proved to be a safe centre where gay persons can freely access health care services like HIV and STI screening and treatment.
According to Ishtar director Peter Njane, they also refer gay people who need specialised treatment to gay-friendly clinics and hospitals within the city. Apart from referrals, the centre also mobilises funds to settle hospital bills for gays admitted in hospitals with severe conditions.
The centre treats gay persons who have been sexually and physically assaulted and those turned away from public hospitals. Free ARVs are also provided to those living with HIV/AIDS.
Ishtar runs a counselling centre where hundreds of gay individuals and couples undergoing emotional challenges can access counselling. The centre has psychologists and counsellors who offer free services to those in need.
From the centre, gay persons can also receive free lubricants and condoms apart from benefiting from free safe sex workshops organised at the centre. This is done to encourage responsible sexual behaviour among the gay community as well as reduce the spread of STI’s among the community.
The centre hosts numerous open forums and discussions for gay individuals to exchange their experiences and share ideas to better their lives.
Ishtar also holds community engagements aimed at educating community members on the need to respect gay rights.
The centre has a library full of LGBTQ material and documents from which members can retrieve helpful information.
The lobby also provides free legal aid to gays who have been victimised either by the state or individuals.
Ishtar centre also has safe houses that host gay individuals facing persecution in society and those being targeted for attacks and whose lives are in danger.
The centre director believes a time will come when Kenyan society fully realises that gay people are ordinary citizens who should be accorded equal rights like everybody else.
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