Trans women living with HIV who do not take their antiretroviral medication (ART) said it was because they were worried about harmful interactions it could cause with their hormone therapy.
A study of trans women in Los Angeles showed more than 50% of those living with HIV were concerned ART and feminizing hormone therapy (HT) could result in harmful drug interactions.
Not much is is clinically understood about the interaction between the two treatments.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) carried out the study. They said the results were concerning.
Firstly, because trans women are in a high-risk group for acquiring HIV. But also because starting ART soon after diagnosis prevents long-term health problems and transmitting HIV to a sexual partner.
The NIAID and NIMH presented the survey findings at the 9th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Science. The conference is currently on in Paris.
Life sustaining and identity affirming
‘Despite all indications that transgender women are a critical population in HIV care, very little is known about how to optimize co-administration of ART and hormonal therapies in this population,’ said Dr Jordan Lake, study leader at the University of California, Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine.
‘This study suggests this void of information may mean some transgender women forgo life-sustaining HIV medications, identity-affirming hormone therapy, or some combination of the two.
‘By exploring the extent to which this is happening, we can find ways to better serve this population.’
Researchers surveyed women at a Los Angeles HIV community organization.
Of the women surveyed 69% were on HT and more than half were living with HIV. But trans women living with HIV were more likely to use HT without supervision.
57% of the women said they they were concerned that using both ART and HT may lead to drug interactions. And 40% did not use ART, HT, or both because of those concerns.