February 9, 2012
Dr. Robert Garofalo, of Children's Memorial Research Center, and colleagues have developed an intervention they hope will help close the gap in HIV prevention programs targeting young transgender women.
"Life Skills" is designed primarily to address stigma, marginalization, and participation in risky sexual behaviors. "This pilot project was unique in targeting the HIV-risk behaviors of adolescent and young adult transgender women, a very at-risk group and one that has been woefully absent from the scientific literature," said Garofalo.
The Life Skills curriculum includes information on sexual health, basic HIV facts, safer-sex techniques, healthy communication, partner negotiation, and available community-based services. Individual sessions with Chicago-area transgenders ages 16-24 resulted in tailored risk reduction plans.
The study demonstrated that small, group-based HIV prevention programs targeting young transgender women are both feasible and acceptable. Those who participated in the Life Skills pilot decreased their frequency of unprotected sex with casual partners and their number of main partners.
Garofalo said the study's success has resulted in a five-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. "In conjunction with the Fenway Institute and Harvard University, we at Children's will now conduct the first-ever efficacy trial of an HIV prevention intervention for young transgender women in the US."