Kenya is to conduct a census of gay people in an attempt to control the spread of HIV.

The confidential survey will be carried out by the National AIDS/STD Control Programme (NASCOP), starting in January or February next year.

It will be distributed through gay networks and in gay areas and will ask participants about their sexual history, condom use and whether they get tested for HIV.

However, critics say that as homosexuality is illegal in the African country, many gay people will be too frightened to come forward. Being convicted of homosexual acts can result in a 14-year jail sentence.

Nicholas Muraguri, head of Kenya’s Aids prevention programme Nascop, told the BBC he realised that getting an accurate count of gay people was unlikely. It is estimated that there are 100,000 gay people in the capital Nairobi and the coastal city of Mombasa.

“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.”