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Transgender People Are Getting Lost In The Sexual Health Conversation

Last week marked National Transgender HIV Awareness Day, an annual designation to address the specific issues that transgender people face within the HIV community. Unfortunately, not as much effort is put into this day as it is with various other campaigns that support other marginalized populations like Black women and Black LGBQ populations.

The conversation around transgender sexual health has been one marked as taboo by various communities, and we continuously miss the opportunity to properly support transgender people when we let days specific to their plight come and go without much ever said.

Part of my work requires me to make postings on social media during each National Testing Day to ensure that the message is being spread about statistics and resources where people can go and get tested. This year was my first to make postings for Transgender HIV Awareness Day, and although I expected that there would be a decline in engagement, I never expected it to be at near minimum interaction.

I’ve done threads in the past on HIV that discussed various communities, and for them I received amazing feedback and engagement numbers; usually in the tens of thousands. The most recent thread I did on Twitter garnered a little under 100 clicks in terms of engagement. Facebook saw less than ten likes. On other testing days you will usually see other HIV organizations make postings or at least boost the posts made by activists and advocates attempting to spread this needed information. There was none of that as well. It was as if everyone put their blinders on for the day and moved on to the next subject.

Transgender people deal with high rates of HIV infection within their community. Intersected with a current administration in Washington, DC that is continuously attempting to strip their rights in a dehumanizing type of process and you create a recipe for disaster.

According the CDC, here are the numbers:

  • A 2017 paper used meta-analysis and synthesized national surveys to estimate that one million adults in the United States identify as transgendera
  • From 2009 to 2014, 2,351 transgender people were diagnosed with HIV in the United Statesb
  • Eighty-four percent (1,974) were transgender women, 15% (361) were transgender men, and less than 1% (16) had another gender identity
  • Around half of transgender people (43% [844] of transgender women; 54% [193] of transgender men) who received an HIV diagnosis from 2009 to 2014 lived in the U.S. South
  • According to current estimates, around a quarter (22-28%) of transgender women are living with HIV, and more than half (an estimated 56%) of Black/African-American transgender women are living with HIV.
  • Among the three million HIV testing eventscreported to the CDC in 2015, the percentage of transgender people who received a new HIV diagnosis was more than three times the national average.
  • Nearly two thirds of transgender women and men surveyed by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) in 2014 and 2015 from 28 jurisdictions reported never testing for HIV.

These numbers are alarming. It is all unfortunately a part of the system that continues to oppress transgender people on multiple levels. From healthcare to employment to societal integration, it is the multiple layers of oppression that hurt their sexual health and that continues to keep HIV and other STIs at epidemic levels. However, the CDC is currently providing more than $11 million in funding to help fight against these numbers.

They have awarded money to more than 30 CBOs across the country to help with this endeavor. They have also done major campaign work to reach this population, including:

  • Developed Act Against AIDScommunication materials to reach transgender people, including campaigns such as:
    • Doing It, which encourages all adults to get tested for HIV and know their status, and includes imagesand testimonial videos featuring transgender leaders.
    • Let’s Stop HIV Together, which raises awareness about HIV and fights stigma, and includes the storiesof transgender women.
    • HIV Treatment Works, which encourages people living with HIV to stay in care, and features transgender women’s storiesof staying healthy while living with HIV.
    • Start Talking. Stop HIV., which helps gay and bisexual cisgender and transgender men communicate about safer sex, testing, and other HIV prevention issues.

HIV is a major issue in the Black community across many the U.S. It’s important that we begin working harder to end this epidemic, specifically focusing on our most marginalized community members who far too often are left out of the equation.