Researchers at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the US have issued a report on the numbers of trans people testing for HIV compared to cisgender gay/bisexual communities.
The incidence of HIV in both communities is higher than in cisgender heterosexual communities.
A 2013 study found that approximately 22% of transgender women were infected with HIV – approximately one in five.
The CDC estimates one in six gay men will become infected with HIV in their lifetime, rising to one in two African American gay men.
Researchers conclude that despite the higher rates of HIV there is a significant disparity when it comes to HIV testing. Trans people in the study were half as likely to test for HIV than gay or bisexual cisgender men.
The latest study covered 27 states over the years 2014-2015. It included 732 transgender women, 451 transgender men, just under 3,800 cisgender gay/bi men and just over 300,000 cisgender heterosexuals.
It found that transgender people generally tested at rates comparable with cisgender heterosexual people, despite the fact they report greater incidence of HIV infection.
HIV testing among transgender community
It says 35.6% of transgender women and 31.6% of transgender men reported ever being tested for HIV. Approximately 10% of trans men and women said they’d been tested in the previous year (comparable to the 8.5% of cisgender heterosexuals).
By contrast, 61.8% of cisgender gay/bisexual men said they’d had a HIV test, and 20% said they’d had a test in the previous year.
Commenting on this disparity, Marc A. Pitasi, MPH, of the CDC National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, said, ‘These findings indicate that current self-reported HIV testing levels among transgender women and men are inconsistent with their HIV risk profiles.
‘Innovative, tailored approaches might be needed to reach transgender persons who are not being reached by existing HIV prevention strategies that focus on other key populations, such as gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.’
‘Transgender health programs need to be about more than just medical care’
‘The CDC’s report is consistent with what we’ve experienced. We believe it’s because of several socioeconomic factors, including racism, poverty, transphobia, unemployment, and HIV stigma as well as poor access to medical care and a lack of trans-affirming testing sites, said Dr. Ward Carpenter, Director of the Transgender Health Program at the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
‘These issues compound the challenges many transgender people already experience, which is why transgender health programs need to be about more than just medical care to be most effective. It’s why we also have transgender-specific programs that focus on employment, wellness, culture and community, legal concerns, anti-violence and mental health.’