On World AIDS Day, observed on December 1 each year, many individuals and organizations are taking time to reflect on the devastating effects this epidemic has had on people across the globe, particularly those within the LGBT community. However, less often highlighted are the specific ways that HIV/AIDS has impacted transgender people. In their groundbreaking report on anti-transgender discrimination, “Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey,” the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force gathered information about the prevalence of, and conditions affecting, HIV/AIDS among transgender people. NCTE released a statement for World AIDS Day, drawing attention to the report’s findings and citing the need to eradicate the circumstances compromising the health of the transgender community, particularly trans women and trans people of color.
In the survey, a sample of nearly 6,500 transgender people reported a 2.6 percent rate of HIV infection, more than four times the rate of the general adult population. These rates were significantly higher for transgender people of color, with 25% of African Americans, 11% of Latino/as, 7% of American Indians, and 3.7% of Asian Americans reporting HIV infection. These rates are substantially increased from those reported by the general population of people of color. Other social and economic factors, such as income, gender, violence, education, employment, and citizenship status greatly affected rates of HIV infection. Trans women respondents reported a 4.3% rate of infection, versus a .51% rate among trans men respondents. Among those transgender people who had been sexually assaulted due to anti-transgender bias, rates of HIV infection rose to 10%.
“We must put an end to this crisis,” said NCTE Executive Director Mara Kiesling. “Part of that is directing health research and resources to trans people. But the other part--the important part--is fixing the conditions that force trans people into unhealthy outcomes."
In addition to the work done by NCTE and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States, issued in July 2010 by President Barack Obama, specifically mentions transgender people and seeks to address the needs of this community. Transgender health experts played a role in developing the strategy and ensuring inclusion of the concerns of transgender people. The strategy admits that, “…historically, efforts targeting [the transgender] population have been minimal.”
"The transgender community suffers a high rate of infection due to lack of employment which leads to working in underground economies, as well as making us susceptible to homelessness, poor health and many other things,” said Kylar Broadus, founder of the Trans People of Color Coalition. “It is estimated that about 30% of transgender women have HIV. Our work to educate, test and treat people continues."
GLAAD thanks the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and those supporting the National HIV/AIDS Strategy for making the health of the transgender community a priority. Through understanding the obstacles that lead to HIV/AIDS infection among transgender people, policy makers and health care professionals can make changes that support prevention and education, and help reduce the devastation resulting from this epidemic.