The 2016 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Boston last month featured a first-ever plenary session on HIV in transgender populations by Dr. Tonia C. Poteat. I had the chance to visit with her following her presentation.
I encourage you to watch Dr. Poteat's plenary address at CROI. Dr. Poteat, an Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins University and former senior advisor at PEPFAR, noted that transgender people span the globe and are present in all cultures. Transgender women, in particular, also bear a heavy and disproportionate burden of HIV around the world. While studies are scarce, the prevalence of HIV in the transgender population is estimated to be as high as 19% globally with 49 times the odds of infection compared to the general adult population.
In her plenary address, she discussed some of the factors that increase HIV risk among transgender women including stigma and discrimination; utilization of exogenous hormone therapy, which may also have clinical implications for HIV therapy due to possible drug-drug interactions; and the use of illicit soft tissue fillers for body modification.
Her address was an important and clear call to action for the HIV research community to take steps to improve our understanding of HIV risks and prevalence among transgender women and to identify effective interventions that support both HIV prevention and treatment for this often marginalized population.
Learn more from this CDC factsheet, HIV Among Transgender People.
For those interested in more information she recommends the Center of Excellence in Transgender Health at the University of California, San Francisco. The Center is sponsoring the inaugural National Transgender HIV Testing Day on April 18.