Resource Spotlight: Transgender Populations and HIV
Transgender people—that is, people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth—have unique resiliencies and unique health needs and priorities. They also are among the most stigmatized and marginalized populations globally, and HIV infection rates are concomitantly high. For example, an estimated 19% of transgender women are living with HIV around the world.
Newly released from non-profit HIV/AIDS research and advocacy group amfAR, “Trans Populations and HIV: Time to End the Neglect” explores the drivers of high HIV prevalence among transgender people—and suggests how communities, advocates, health care and service providers, and policy makers can address them.
Download the full issue brief for an accessible explanation of gender identity and how it interacts with sexual, social, economic, and behavioral risk factors for HIV, and to see recommended steps for getting transgender populations higher on the HIV research and advocacy agenda and improving health and well-being among transgender people.
See the excerpt for insight into the unmet health care needs of trans people, and check out the transgender health resources below for improving your own and your community’s well-being.
Impediments to an Effective HIV Response for Trans People
Inadequate Access to Quality Healthcare
Many trans people have multiple healthcare needs. According to the “Standards of Care” developed by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, some trans patients require services specific to their gender identity and individual needs, including access to hormones, surgical transition, and voice and communication therapy. In addition to the comprehensive array of services required by all other patients, trans individuals are frequently in need of mental health and substance abuse services.
Surveys indicate that trans people frequently have unsatisfactory experiences with mainstream health services. Problems faced by trans patients include providers and administrative staff using improper pronouns to address them, lack of preparedness to address their unique health needs, and/or denial of health services entirely. As a result, many trans people either forgo health services altogether—sometimes even in life-threatening situations—or must travel considerable distances to obtain care from a knowledgeable and qualified provider.
Difficulties in obtaining official identification that reflects an individual’s gender identity often impede access to health and social services and can make it challenging to vote, cross a national border, or even obtain a mobile phone. Registration with national authorities often occurs at birth or early in life, and most countries make it difficult for trans people to amend their identification documents, typically requiring applicants to navigate a complicated process of medical verification.
Hostile health services and lack of access to transition-related care, combined with the struggles of day-to-day living, diminish health outcomes among HIV-positive trans people. Trans individuals living with HIV are less likely than their non-trans counterparts to have favorable interactions with healthcare providers and are less likely to adhere to prescribed antiretroviral regimens….
Center of Excellence for Transgender Health: Based in San Francisco, the CoE’s mission is to increase access to comprehensive health care services for transgender and gender-variant communities. Find medical care and mental health services with transgender-affirming providers; access online courses, guides, fact sheets, and other resources on transgender health and HIV prevention; or arrange a free training or consultation to help improve your organization’s capacity for providing trans-specific HIV prevention interventions.
GLMA Provider Finder: Looking for a transgender-affirming new doc? Search by zipcode to find one near you. Click “Additional Search Options” to locate a provider by specialty, gender transitioning services offered, languages spoken, type of clinical setting, and payment options.
Transgender Law Center: With the motto “Making authentic lives possible,” the Transgender Law Center offers a legal information helpline; articles and videos on transgender rights and employment, housing, immigration, and other key issues; and other resources for trans communities.
Project Health: A collaboration between the Transgender Law Center and Lyon-Martin Health Services, Project Health provides a transgender medical consultation service, offers rotations in transgender medicine for medical providers and students, and advocates at the local and state levels for improved transgender health care access.
TransLine: A free online transgender medical consultation service for health care providers, staffed by trans-knowledgeable clinicians and offering information and case consultation on trans health issues. Browse the resource list for answers to your questions, or submit your question and receive a response within two days.
Helping Your Provider Establish A Friendly Environment: Written for patients but equally informative for providers, the Rainbow Access Initiative’s short guide to LGBT-friendly office practices gives practical tips, such as appropriate language for medical forms and conversations about sexual health.