Transgender women are 49 times more likely to have HIV than the general population, a new study has found.
Suggesting nearly a fifth of all trans women worldwide have HIV, the study involved over 11,000 women in 15 different countries from around the world.
Published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, the authors say: ‘Our findings suggest that transgender women are a very high burden population for HIV and are in urgent need of prevention, treatment and care services.’
The data, conducted between 2000 and 2011, was only available from ‘male-predominant HIV epidemics’ including the US, three European countries, five Latin American countries and six Asia-Pacific countries.
The investigators believe many of the infections will have been acquired via unprotected anal sex, and trans women are more likely to engage in sex work.
‘Few health-care workers, from HIV counselors to nurses and physicians, have received any training on addressing the specific health needs of transgender women,’ they note.
Dr Stefan Baral, who led the study, told The Huffington Post it does not seem like it is a ‘priority’ for governments or health care providers to care about the needs of trans communities.
When treatment programs attempt to care for trans women the same as gay men, they do not take into account trans-specific risk factors.
According to Baral, trans women are almost always the receptive partner in anal sex, and a lack of resources for hormone treatments may lead to sharing dirty needles.
‘People think if you provide services that’s enough,’ Baral said. ‘You have to be providing, but you also need people to actually seek out those services and use them.’
The authors concluded the findings made it clear that ‘urgency is needed to address this severe and widespread component of worldwide HIV.’