While we know that transgender Americans have a heightened risk for contracting HIV, we have very little data to help us fully understand how prevalent HIV is among this community and what kind of role transgender discrimination plays. To help bridge this knowledge gap and shed light on an overlooked community, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality have released findings from the first large-scale national study on transgender people in the U.S.
Based on responses from over 6,400 transgender Americans, "Injustice at Every Turn" touches on a range of areas, including discrimination in education, health care, employment and housing. But most importantly for our readers it shows how these aspects impact and are connected to HIV/AIDS.
The report, which incorporates the voices of transgender participants along with the actual data, paints an alarming picture. In terms of HIV, here are some of their findings:
- Discrimination in health care and poor health outcomes were frequently experienced by respondents. Nineteen percent reported being refused care due to bias against transgender or gender-nonconforming people, with this figure even higher for respondents of color. Respondents also had over four times the national average of HIV infection.
- Doing sex work for income may be a major risk factor for HIV: 61 percent of respondents who were HIV positive reporting they had done sex work for income. To consider this from a different angle, of all the people in the sample who had done sex work, 15.32 percent reported being HIV-positive.
- Among survey participants, 88 percent of those who reported being HIV positive identified as either male-to-female (MTF) or gender non-conforming on the MTF spectrum. The reported rate of HIV infection for the MTF transgender respondents was 4.28 percent. The reported rate of HIV infection for female-to-male respondents was .51 percent, lower than the national average.
- Respondents who had lost a job due to bias reported an HIV rate (4.59 percent) over seven times higher than the general population (.6 percent), and more than double the rate of those who did not lose a job (2.06 percent).
- Respondents who were unemployed reported an HIV rate (4.67 percent) over seven times higher than the general population (.6 percent), and more than double the rate of those who were employed (1.81 percent).
- Respondents who reported having to leave school due to harassment were HIV-positive at a rate of 5.14 percent, compared to 1.87 percent of respondents who did not. This rate, 5.14 percent, is more than eight times the HIV rate of the general population, 0.6 percent.
In lieu of the rates of HIV infection and other health concerns, the report also handed down recommendations that speak to overwhelming need for:
- Creating transgender-sensitive health education, health care, prevention and recovery programs.
- Additional data about the health outcomes of transgender and gender non-conforming people is urgently needed.
- Health studies and other surveys need to include gender identity as a demographic category.
- Information about health risks, outcomes and needs must be sought specifically about transgender populations.
- Transgender people should not be put in categories such as "men who have sex with men" (MSM) as transgender women consistently are and transgender men sometimes are. Separate categories should be created for transgender women and transgender men so HIV rates and other sexual health issues can be accurately tracked and researched.
Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, stated, "This survey is a call to the conscience of every American who believes that everyone has the right to a fair chance to work hard, to have a roof overhead, and to support a family. Equality, not discrimination, is the ideal that Americans believe in, have fought for, and need to apply here."
Read the rest of the report's findings in the executive summary or the full report.
Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.