250 Sites Participated In Listening Session With The Transgender Community

Content From: Caroline Talev, MPA, Public Health Analyst, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesPublished: December 21, 20163 min read


The HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy (OHAIDP) recently convened a community listening session to hear about the ways that the Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative Fund (SMAIF) might help to further improve HIV prevention and care for transgender women of color. Transgender women of color have extremely high rates of HIV that are driven and compounded by other health issues, socioeconomic barriers, transphobia, discrimination, and other challenges. Too often, the community’s needs are overlooked or addressed in ways that are not optimal.

The SMAIF promotes innovation, addresses critical emerging issues, and has established new collaborations across federal agencies to improve the national response to HIV and to create lasting changes in programs that improve the quality, efficiency, and impact of HIV programs that serve racial and ethnic minorities. The listening session provided an important opportunity to hear from community members about their recommendations for how they believe SMAIF might leverage existing resources to improve the response to HIV and AIDS among transgender women of color. Leaders from a variety of organizations from across the nation volunteered on a first-come, first-served basis to answer the following questions:
  1. What are the most important barriers to improving HIV prevention and care for transgender women of color that you think the SMAIF might help address?
  2. What are your recommendations for activities to address these barriers?
The community speakers included:
  1. JoAnne Keatley, MSW, Director, Center of Excellence for Transgender Health, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)
  2. Kim Watson, Co-Founder/Vice-President, Community Kinship Life
  3. Leo Rennie, Senior Legislative and Federal Affairs Officer, American Psychological Association
  4. Cecilia Chung, Senior Strategist, Transgender Law Center
  5. Tonia Poteat, PhD, MPH, PA-C, Assistant Professor, Center for AIDS Research, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
  6. Luis Freddy Molano, MD, Vice President of Infectious Diseases and LGBTQ Programs, Community Healthcare Network
  7. Octavia Lewis, MPA, Project Manager, Bronx-Lebanon Hospital
  8. Sean Coleman, Executive Director, Destination Tomorrow
  9. Danielle Castro, MA, Project Director, Center of Excellence for Transgender Health, UCSF
  10. Bamby Salcedo, President and CEO, TransLatin@Coalition
These speakers shared their knowledge, passion, and recommendations during the session. Several themes emerged, including:
  • Ensure that HIV providers and staff provide gender-affirming and nondiscriminatory health care and service environments.
  • Capture accurate data for the transgender community in CDC surveillance and other data systems.
  • Support efforts to address social determinants of health, including mental health services.
  • Address disparities of transgender youth, including the risk of bullying and its consequences.
  • Increase evidence-based interventions for community-based projects.
  • Actively recruit in the transgender community and provide leadership opportunities and training so that transgender people can lead efforts to design and implement programs and policies that serve the transgender community.
Dr. Richard Wolitski, Director of the HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy (OHAIDP), moderated the session and provided opening remarks. He was followed by Dr. Amy Lansky, Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) who spoke about the NHAS and the transgender community, as well as highlighting the three new developmental indicators that the White House released on World AIDS Day 2016. One of the developmental indicators is to “increase the percentage of transgender women in HIV medical care who are virally suppressed to 90%.” Following Dr. Lansky, Dr. Timothy Harrison, Senior Policy Advisor in OHAIDP, discussed the purpose of SMAIF, its unique role, and the types of projects that have been funded.

The listening session was recorded and the recommendations will be shared with HHS partners, along with written submissions. I encourage you to listen to the session and review the presentation because the data clearly show very high rates of HIV infection among transgender women of color, poorer health care outcomes among women living with HIV, and other disparities. We have the knowledge and effective tools to create a future in which transgender women do not experience these disparities and we can end new HIV infections. The time to act is now.

Download the listening session recording. Download the speakers’ slide-presentations-and-other-recommendations-received