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Asia-Pacific: Transgenders Assert Identity at AIDS Meeting

August 17, 2009

Few support networks, widespread discrimination, and low AIDS awareness put transgender persons at high risk of HIV infection, advocates said during the recent ninth International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific.

"The lack of knowledge and information about reproductive health are compounded by confusion about one's sexuality, resulting in the individual often being ostracized in the community," said Luluk Surahman, a participant at the Bali, Indonesia, conference. "Often they are undereducated, have no adequate skills to support themselves, which is one of the reasons why they turn to sex work. Almost 40 percent of transgenders in Jakarta are already infected."

Many transgender persons in China's Yunnan province are poorly educated, have unstable housing, and practice low condom use, said Zhao Jian'gang of the Yunnan-based Alliance of Chinese Transgenders. Transgender persons there are subject to arbitrary arrest, abuse, and media abasement, Zhao said.

"A friend of mine who got breast implants was arrested because of sex work," said Zhao. "They cut off her hair at the detention and rehabilitation center and placed her with male prisoners."

"Transgenders live under threat of rape and other forms of abuse" in India, said Utpal Chakraborty, a People Like Us representative. "Many join the 'hijra,' the eunuch community, and undergo illegal, secret and crude castration operations," Chakraborty said.

Prevention initiatives customized to address this community can have the added benefit of elevating transgender persons' economic status and protecting their human rights, experts say.

Back to other news for August 2009

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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