National Transgender HIV Testing Day (NTHTD) is just around the corner. Its purpose is to recognize the importance of routine HIV testing, status awareness and continued focus on HIV prevention and treatment efforts among transgender and gender non-binary people.
The goal of NTHTD is to encourage community-based organizations, health jurisdictions and HIV prevention programs to host local transgender HIV testing community events and/or develop trans-specific HIV testing campaign materials and resources. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2013, the highest percentages of newly identified HIV-positive cases was among transgender persons.
Related: SFGN's Transgender Special Issue
Trans women of color, especially African-Americans and Latinas, experience disproportionately high rates of HIV. A 2008 meta-analysis of 29 regional US studies found that race was a significant mediating factor to HIV status among trans women; that is, race influences how much risk one has of contracting HIV. It is important to emphasize, however, the literature suggests that racism, not just race, influences these women’s risk. Transphobia (specific discrimination experienced by trans people), homophobia, and racism appear to collectively increase risk among trans women of color.
“It is very important for the Transgender Community to know their status for so many reasons,” says Tatiana Williams, Testing Expansion Coordinator at the Pride Center at Equality Park. Many Transwomen have challenges finding employment and face other socioeconomic issues. In this situation, some turn to the sex trade, for survivor work, which puts them at risk. Many of the men who are involved with these women tend to sleep with multiple partners in the community, of which is a very small population giving the numbers of our overall population in the county. “Knowing their status be it negative is great, now he/she has the opportunity to get preventive help to stay that way,” Williams said. “If he/she is positive knowing as soon as possible means he/she could access care to keep an undetectable viral load which prevents you from transmitting the virus.”