Arianna Lint is a minority within a minority – a transgender woman with HIV. Unfortunately, it’s a minority that’s growing.
According to the latest information published by the CDC, the highest percentage of newly identified HIV-positive test results was among transgender individuals. A Lancet article, highlighted at the Fifth Annual Transgender Medical Symposium in Fort Lauderdale last May, reported an HIV infection rate of around 20 percent among trans people in the U.S.
The percentage may also be higher.
The CDC also reported that accurately assessing HIV/AIDS rates, within current data systems, among the transgender community is a challenge because “some transgender people may not identify as transgender due to fear of discrimination or previous negative experiences.”
In New York City alone, from 2007 to 2011, there were 191 new diagnoses of HIV infection among transgender people, 99 percent of which were among transgender women. Among those, 90 percent were black or Latina, 52 percent were in their twenties and 51 percent had documentation of substance use, commercial sex work, homelessness, incarceration, and/or sexual abuse as compared with only 31 percent of other people who were not transgender.
The CDC also found that other risk factors for HIV infection were higher among transgender individuals – attempted suicide, unemployment, lack of familial support, violence, stigma and discrimination, limited health care access and negative health care encounters.
In the Obama Administration’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy, transgender women, Latinas, drug users, gay men, bisexual men, young people and black women are among the groups prioritized for assistance because of their higher risk of contracting the disease.
To help gather more data on transgender HIV/AIDS rates, the TransLatina Coalition has been tapped by the White House. Lint and other transgender individuals were recently invited to the White House to talk about HIV/AIDS. Lint said her organization will have a survey ready by March 24.
“The transgender community is the most affected,” Lint said. She said her organization and others have been charged with gathering information for the next administration. “In 11 months maybe we’re not going to change anything but maybe we can with the new administration.”
The biggest challenge, she said, is separating transgender individuals so that issues that are specific to her community can be addressed, such as being denied healthcare. “It’s a population that’s underserved. It’s like they invite us to a house but we’re just put in the kitchen.”
For more information on the survey, visit TransLatinaCoalition.org.