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CDC: Trans women urgently need more HIV treatment, prevention services

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On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report that found that transgender women in the U.S. are in immediate need of HIV prevention and treatment services.

According to the CDC, four in 10 trans women surveyed in seven major U.S. cities have HIV.

The report found stark racial and ethnic differences in HIV rates among respondents. Sixty-two percent of Black transgender women and 35% of Hispanic/Latina transgender women had HIV, compared to 17% of white transgender women. Furthermore, nearly two-thirds of the women surveyed lived at or below the poverty level, and 42% had experienced homelessness in the past 12 months.

Interviews were conducted in 2019 through early 2020 with 1,608 transgender women living in Atlanta, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle found that 42% of respondents with a valid HIV test result had HIV.

“These data provide a clear and compelling picture of the severe toll of HIV among transgender women and the social and economic factors — including systemic racism and transphobia — that are contributing to this unacceptable burden,” said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention. “Reducing HIV in these communities will require that public health and other providers of social and prevention services design innovative and comprehensive status-neutral solutions to overcome barriers to whole person prevention and care.”

The CDC also found only 32% of those in the study were using PrEP.  Previous studies have found that low uptake of PrEP among trans women may be due to a range of factors, including medical mistrust due to transphobia, lack of trans-inclusive marketing, and concerns about drug interactions between hormones and PrEP. In this study, 67% of participants without HIV were taking hormones for gender affirmation.

“HIV testing is the gateway to all treatment and prevention, and expanding testing means more transgender women are aware of their status and can engage in the care they need — if we help them connect to appropriate and responsive care services,” said Joseph Prejean, PhD, acting deputy director for surveillance, epidemiology and laboratory science in CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention.

You can read the full report here.

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