Kenya’s Medical Research Institute says gay men working in the sex trade need to be included in the country’s HIV prevention strategy.

The institute has published research showing 739 men are engaged in sex work in Mombasa – Kenya’s second-largest city which has a population of over one million.

Along with many African nations Kenya has a severe, generalised HIV epidemic, but in recent years, the country has experienced a notable decline in HIV prevalence.

However, men who have sex with men (MSM) are often prevented from accessing HIV testing and medication – seen by world health experts, along with condom use, as a crucial way of reducing onward transmission of the virus.

Lead researcher Eduard Sanders said: “We estimated that 739 MSMs sell sex in and around Mombasa. Of these, 484 were contacted through trained peer enumerators in a single day. MSMs in Mombasa represent a sizeable population who urgently need to be targeted by HIV prevention strategies.”

Consensual sexual activity between men is illegal under Kenyan law and carries a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment.