Transgender communities in the United States are among the groups at highest risk for HIV infection. Many of us in the transgender (trans) community have been dismayed by the continued impact of HIV and AIDS on our trans sisters and brothers. We have worked hard to address the epidemic from within—with the limited resources we’ve been able to generate—to try to mitigate the loss of lives. HIV claims far too many of us, along with severe poverty, violence, joblessness, and stigma. It can often be overwhelming. Still, we try to create approaches where we can make a difference. In response, CDC’s Capacity Building Assistance Provider Network partner, the Center of Excellence (COE) for Transgender Health at the University of California, San Francisco, is launching the inaugural National Transgender HIV Testing Day (NTHTD) on April 18, 2016. We believe this is one approach that will lead to real difference.
NTHTD is a day set aside to recognize the importance of HIV testing and increasing awareness and focus on HIV prevention and treatment efforts among transgender and gender non-binary people. HIV testing can be an effective prevention tool that actively engages trans people in supporting sexual health and wellness while empowering us to make informed health choices that will help improve our lives. HIV testing among trans populations also allows health care providers to identify those who are HIV positive and to begin treatment efforts sooner, leading to better health outcomes and reduced possibility of HIV transmission.
Trans people often feel invisible or excluded, even in issues that affect our own lives. The lack of standardized methods for accurately counting trans people or allowing us to self-identify increases our invisibility, further impacting our engagement with health and HIV testing and prevention services. But we know through published research studies of trans populations that there are high levels of HIV infection and clear racial/ethnic disparities among our population.
As part of the NTHTD initiative, the CoE has developed a Transgender HIV Testing Toolkit, consisting of five modules designed to reflect the most current HIV prevention research and best practices for serving trans and gender non-binary people. Guidelines to increase access and trans cultural competence among HIV testing programs and services are included. With this toolkit, the CoE is aiming to encourage and support community-based organizations and prevention programs to host trans HIV testing community events, develop expanded trans HIV testing visibility campaigns, provide HIV testing services, and/or engage trans community members in promoting status awareness among all trans people.
So, in closing, I make a personal appeal to you: please pass this blog along to those in your community who would help us advance to a state of health and wellness. We are all part of the social fabric in this country. We are your sisters, mothers, fathers, brothers and cousins, and you can help save our lives, simply by caring and sharing.
Editor's Note: Visit the HIV.gov NTHTD Awareness Day Page for more digital resources to get involved with National Transgender HIV Testing Day.