At High Risk for HIV, Transgender Individuals Are Organizing and Advocating for Social and Legal Change
NEW YORK, NY –A new report released today by amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, and Global Action for Trans* Equality (GATE), highlights the ongoing struggle of transgender individuals across the globe in their fight for access to appropriate and effective HIV care and treatment. For years data has shown that transgender individuals are disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS, both in terms of increased risk of infection and the high number of them already living with the virus.
Today, however, transgender individuals are increasingly using the power of community organization and mobilization to demand not only an equal place in society, but timely access to relevant medical and other support services. The new report, Lessons from the Front Lines: Trans Health and Rights, profiles 10 dynamic community organizations with strong transgender leadership in nine diverse countries—Bolivia, China, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Georgia, Peru, South Africa, and Ukraine—that are working hard to change the status quo in transgender health and rights.
The report, supported in part by the Arcus Foundation and available in both English and Spanish, examines data on access to health services and legal protections for transgender individuals in different settings, and details how societal stigma and institutionalized discrimination come together to create nearly insurmountable challenges for these populations and the organizations that serve them. More importantly, however, the report describes how these grassroots groups have confronted, responded to, and in some cases solved, many of the myriad challenges that confront them. The organizations profiled, all current and past grantees of amfAR, have achieved their successes through a combination of personal courage, determination, teamwork, and employing bold and creative strategies. [pullquote]The new report, Lessons from the Front Lines: Trans Health and Rights, profiles 10 dynamic community organizations with strong transgender leadership in nine diverse countries—Bolivia, China, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Georgia, Peru, South Africa, and Ukraine—that are working hard to change the status quo in transgender health and rights.[/pullquote]
“Transgender individuals face similar challenges around the world, and in most countries cannot obtain legal recognition of their gender identities,” said Kent Klindera, director of amfAR’s GMT Initiative. “Achieving an AIDS-free generation for all requires stepping up our efforts to address the specific needs of transgender individuals. While we still have a long way to go, we are beginning to see some promising signs of change and increased momentum in transgender health rights advocacy around the world.”
In nearly every setting, transgender individuals face widespread violence (including sexual violence), lack of access to basic healthcare, and in many cases the dangers inherent in performing commercial sex work, all of which combine to make them particularly vulnerable to HIV infection. In addition, stigma and discrimination make finding stable housing and employment extremely challenging and, in many cases, prevent transgender individuals from accessing even the most basic HIV prevention and treatment services.
Limited data exists on HIV indicators among transgender individuals in many countries, but a recent meta-analysis of research done throughout the world showed that the HIV rate among transgender women is likely to be 49 times higher than in the general population—and more than double the rate among gay men and other men who have sex with men. Unfortunately, there is no corresponding data on transgender men.
“This report recognizes that one key to success is having transgender individuals involved in leadership roles within the social, legal, and political processes that impact their daily lives,” said Mauro Cabral, co-director of GATE and the primary author of the publication. “Providing training and giving transgender activists a platform to speak about their experiences and advocate for their rights is also essential. And while health centers that provide access to transgender-appropriate services and care for people with HIV are critically important, access to emotional and psychosocial support is needed as well.” [pullquote]Limited data exists on HIV indicators among transgender individuals in many countries, but a recent meta-analysis of research done throughout the world showed that the HIV rate among transgender women is likely to be 49 times higher than in the general population—and more than double the rate among gay men and other men who have sex with men.[/pullquote]
Although little formal research has been done on the health and human rights of transgender individuals in most countries, the report found that involving them in the design, development and conduct of such research within their own communities is fundamental to increasing meaningful participation and promoting real change.
Since many of the organizations operate in the context of severe social and institutional stigma and discrimination, often described as ‘transphobia’, the report recognizes the importance of educating key policy makers on both the issues faced by and rights of transgender individuals. While many transgender individuals and advocates are demanding laws that will allow them to change their gender and have it legally recognized, only some governments have been proactive to take that step. Activists have achieved significant success when focusing on issues such as access to health and HIV services, which offer an entry point for future dialogue and relationship building.
amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested more than $388 million in its programs and has awarded more than 3,300 grants to research teams worldwide. Since 2007, amfAR’s GMT Initiative has provided technical and financial support to community organizations working to combat HIV among transgender individuals (and gay men and other MSM) in low- and middle-income countries.
Global Action for Trans* Equality (GATE) is a global transgender advocacy organization. Its mission is to support transgender movements worldwide, make critical knowledge and resources available to transgender activists and work for transgender rights at the global level. GATE focuses its work on global HIV/AIDS policy, access to funding for transgender movements and the reform of the WHO International Classification of Diseases, which currently lists gender identity disorder as a personality disorder. GATE recently also published ‘The State of Trans* and Intersex Organizing,’ which describes the financial and organizational capacity of 340 transgender and intersex groups worldwide.
[From a News Release]