AIDS and How It Affects the Transgender Community

AIDS
African-American transgender women are at the highest risk for new positive HIV/AIDS test results. The term “gender identity” refers to how a person feels about themselves regardless of biological sex. There is an uniform way to collect information on how many transgender people there actually are in the United States with HIV/AIDS. However, scientists studying these communities have noticed a rise in HIV among racial disparities. This only includes those that have actually been tested and diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.

Even with how far health science has come in helping people live a longer life before HIV grows into AIDS, if it becomes AIDS at all. In 2010, 50 percent of HIV/AIDS testing among the transgender community was performed in non-healthcare facilities. The highest percentage of those newly infected with HIV/AIDS was the transgender people at 2.1 percent but trans women who were also African-Americans, was the highest at 4.1.percent as reported by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This was when the last ‘census’ was taken.

More than one factors are creating a spike in HIV/AIDS among African-American trans women, such as socioeconomic, health-related factors, and cultural differences all contribute to the HIV /AIDS epidemic in African-American trans women. It is difficult to know how accurate this data is. Gender expression is relayed differently depending on what is culturally acceptable in a specific area, some people do not self-identify as transgender. Some people identify as transgender and gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or heterosexual. It has been recommended by the Institute of Medicine that a separate study be performed including the data of men having sex with other men; such as someone who is a trans male who has sex with both gay men and trans women.

Regardless of the method of assessment, male to female transgender African-Americans have a higher HIV infection rate of 27 to 48 percent. The CDC reported that this community  participated in risky behaviors, such as unprotected receptive anal intercourse, multiple casual partners, and sex at work. There are higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, incarceration, unemployment, attempted suicide, limited access to healthcare, as well as lack of support and violence. Discrimination and social stigma which  affects access to education, employment, and housing options. A study was conducted in San Francisco and transgender people were more likely than homosexuals or straight women to be living in transient housing and have less education. Significant economic hardships can explain the community participating in high-risk activities as a means of basic survival. Interventions have to be put into place.  There are not any interventions addressing co-occurring public health problems such as substance abuse, untreated mental health, violence, economic hardship, victimization, and discrimination have not been developed for the transgender community. There need to be more places that those with HIV/AIDS can go to just be comfortable.

A person who is recognized as a different gender can find this to be a barrier to reaching out for medical attention. HIV-positive transgender women have comparable health coverage with HIV-positive people who are not transgender. However, it is transgender women who are most likely to have untreated HIV.

Scripps Research Institute in California has developed a “sticky strip” of ‘reprogrammed’ DNA, which attaches itself to healthy cells. That strip tells it how to create tools that get into the parts of the cells the HIV/AIDS virus has a harder time getting into before the HIV/AIDS can get in, blocking it from getting in at all. Then, it multiplies and goes into other cells and the HIV/AIDS cannot attack the healthy cells.

A concern is that gene therapy would continue to make the tools that spit the HIV/AIDS bumpers would be ongoing for the life of the gene therapy. It is not sure what the long-term effects could possibly be on a person’s body. This study is far from any human trials but it is doing well in some monkey trials. However, this gives those who are transgender, heterosexual, or any other color of the rainbow, there is hope. This offers hope to those who are unable to afford HIV/AIDS treatment, or who are sensitive to medications. It would give the vast expression of immune protection and infection protection at the same time. Many hope that AIDS will be prevented among all communities because HIV will be wiped out.

By Jeanette Smith

Sources:
HuffPost Gay Voices
BBC News
Time
CDC
Medscape
Photo Courtesy of UNICEF Ethiopia – Flickr.com
Photo Courtesy of Reji – Flickr.com

Your Thoughts?