Study Shows Trans* Discrimination At Fault For HIV Rates

A new study from the World Health Organization has found that transgender women are 49 times as likely as a member of the general population to be HIV-positive. The study’s authors theorize why this would be:

“Many studies have demonstrated multiple co-occurring health problems among transgender women, including high rates of violence and victimization, substance use, sexual abuse and assault, and depression with suicidal ideation and attempts. This syndemic is associated with structural and social inequalities such as widespread stigma and discrimination, lack of access to identity documents that match gender expression, high prevalence of unemployment and under-employment, street-based sex work with low pay and no legal protections, homelessness and lack of access to health services, included gender-affirming care. Many transgender women have partners who are at high risk for HIV. Transgender women who seek psychological affirmation of their gender from partners may be more willing to have condomless sex, thereby increasing their vulnerability to HIV.”

Or, in other words, transgender women face barriers to getting adequate health care because they are discriminated against. There are obstacles to having their legal documents reflect their gender and presentation, which raises problems when they apply for jobs that might provide them with insurance that would cover their health care needs. Trans women are made additionally vulnerable by the fact that there are no housing, educational, or financial protections against discrimination based on gender identity.

It’s only now that legislation is being introduced that would put those protections in place, but in the meantime, the study shows that transgender sex workers have an HIV prevalence rate of 27 percent, as opposed to 15 percent for trans women who don’t engage in sex work.

On top of that, it was difficult for the study authors to even find data on HIV in the trans* community, because there were no countries in Eastern Europe or the entire continent of Africa that had that data. And, as the study notes, “HIV data on people with non-binary identities” – such as genderqueer, genderfluid, or agender individuals – “are lacking, and, therefore, are not discussed.”

While media attention has recently brought light to the existence of trans* individuals, and the insistence that the trans* community must be accepted as a part of our culture and no longer ignored as people, mainstream attention is still lacking on the subject of health needs in the trans* community and the complex reasons trans* individuals, particularly trans women, are underserved.


[h/t The Advocate]


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