A Conversation with the Director of the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health

Content From: HIV.govPublished: January 26, 20103 min read


The transgender community has been disproportionately affected by HIV, and often faces challenges finding and accessing appropriate services. JoAnne Keatley, Director of the UCSF Center of Excellence for Transgender HealthExit Disclaimer, is one of the leaders in the larger national conversation about increasing access to culturally competent healthcare for transgender people. At HIV.gov, we are committed to working with leadership in the transgender community to support this important work, and to consider how new media might play a role in extending the reach of programs. We asked JoAnne to tell us a bit more about the work that she and the Center are doing. Here’s what JoAnne had to say:

Q: Please tell us a bit more about yourself.

A: I was born in Mexico City in 1951. I came to the United States when I was eight and grew up in Los Angeles with my mother and six siblings. We struggled quite a bit because Mom was a single parent. In spite of the challenges we faced, I learned to be resilient and to appreciate the strength in family. It is one of the things I love about being Latina! I returned to school as an adult and received an MSW from UC Berkeley in my late 40s. It’s never too late! I identify as female, transgender, and heterosexual. My work today involves managing a portfolio of Pacific AIDS Education & Training CenterExit Disclaimer minority focused training projects and directing the Center of Excellence for Transgender HealthExit Disclaimer. These dual roles allow me to bring forth my years of experience addressing HIV risk behavior in underserved populations.

Q: What are some of the issues facing the transgender community with respect to HIV?

A: There is a big gap of trained providers who are knowledgeable and sensitive to the needs of HIV-positive transgender people. The continued misclassification of transgender women as men who have sex with men leads to a lack of clarity about the full impact that HIV is having on the trans community. This leads to a lack of resources dedicated to decreasing the spread of HIV among trans people. It is like a double edged sword, data drives funding and yet we don’t have a consistent mechanism for capturing that data.

Q: What is the UCSF Center of Excellence for Transgender Health doing to address these issues?

A: We are developing best practices and resources for providers interested in engaging us. Through our websiteExit Disclaimer we make tools and information available so that they can be accessed easily. We also share strategies and provide capacity building and technical assistance for those who are interested in improving health outcomes for their transgender community members.

Q: What do you know (or need to know) about how the transgender community is using the Internet/new media generally? And, specifically to make health decisions?

A: Transgender individuals are increasingly becoming internet and new media savvy. We know that social networking sites are a very effective way for transgender people to stay connected and to enhance their connections with other community members, as well as to connect with potential sex and/or relationship partners. We know less about how they are using these tools to make health decisions and/or to access health promotion strategies.

Q: What role does/can the Internet/new media play in HIV prevention in the transgender community?

A: With adequate resources and effort, an innovative networking site might be an effective way to promote sexual negotiating skill development. Another possibility is to create a virtual mentoring environment in order to increase sources of support and social connectedness. Many transgender people, particularly in rural areas, deal with feelings of isolation and often feel unsupported. Some may struggle with low self-esteem issues as a result of the lack of affirmation. New media can provide one method for alleviating that isolation.

To learn more about transgender health, please visit UCSF Center of Excellence for Transgender HealthExit Disclaimer.