August 30, 2011
Acceptance and respect are the biggest factors in fighting HIV. Credit: Suite101.com.
The Center for Disease Control published a report about transgender people and HIV earlier this month. Although it is difficult to collect data on transgender populations, the numbers that have been found are disheartening. There are several obstacles that keep health educators from truly reaching and helping this population. Stigma and discrimination are at the top of the list.
In 2009, the CDC found that newly identified HIV infection was at 2.6 percent among transgender people. Further studies showed that nearly 30 percent of transgender women tested positive for HIV. When testing was not a part of the study, only 11 percent of transgender women identified themselves as being HIV positive. In D.C., approximately 14 percent of transgender people are HIV positive. The data collection from this population is incomplete and inconclusive. There are several stumbling blocks when trying to service this population.
What needs to change? Stigma, of course, is the number one issue in this Examiner's opinion. There are too many assumptions being made about transgender people that are simply ignorant. They are not crazy or 'less than' or just a bunch of gay men who dress up like women. Transgender people need to be accepted and respected for who they are (and only they know who they are). Once people stop pointing the finger and laughing then the healing can begin. Transgender people frequently feel forced to contain their personalities and true feelings out of fear. It is this kind of fear that can lead to drug and alcohol abuse. (i.e. I'm not accepted for who I am. People are gonna feel the way they want to feel about me anyway. Why should I value my life when no one else does?) Thus, HIV infections grow.
In D.C., there are organizations that help transgender and non-transgender people move towards acceptance and good health. Transgender Health Empowerment, Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League and The D.C. Center. Each of these reputable organizations are accessible and prepared to assist wherever needed. To read the entire report from the CDC on transgender populations and HIV, click here.