ICYMI: HRSA Promotes Access to Gender Affirming Care and Treatment in the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program
Cross-posted from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Press Office
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced that it has released a letter encouraging Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program service providers to leverage their existing infrastructure to provide access to gender affirming care and treatment services to transgender and gender diverse individuals with HIV.
“It is critical that service providers know that they can provide gender-affirming health care and social services as part of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program,” said HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson. “This guidance supports our efforts to address health disparities and reduce barriers to lifesaving HIV care, medication, and support services for transgender people with HIV so they can lead long, healthy lives.”
The announcement of the gender affirming care letter comes as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) commemorates the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, recognizing “12 Years of Advancing Health Equity for All Americans.” Today, HHS honors and supports the health of people of LGBTQI+ experience and communities of color, critical populations served by the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program.
The letter issued by HRSA’s HIV/AIDS Bureau (HAB) reaffirms the importance of providing culturally-affirming health care and social services to the transgender community as a key component to improving the lives of transgender people with HIV. This includes housing and behavioral and mental health services, as well as medical care and medication, which are fundamental in reducing health disparities and improving HIV-related outcomes among transgender people. The letter builds on HRSA HAB-funded initiatives that support patient-centered, trauma-informed, and inclusive environments of care for Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program clients that help reduce medical mistrust and other barriers to antiretroviral therapy adherence for transgender and gender diverse people with HIV.
In 2020, 89.4 percent of Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program clients who received HIV medical care were virally suppressed, compared to 65.5 percent virally suppressed nationally. Among transgender clients receiving RWHAP HIV medical care in 2020, 84.5 percent were virally suppressed, which is lower than the national RWHAP average.
“While transgender Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program clients receiving HIV medical care have reached higher viral suppression rates than the national average, we recognize that we need to do more to support this community,” said HRSA HAB Associate Administrator Dr. Laura Cheever. “To help achieve the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, including achieving health equity and ending the HIV epidemic, we will continue to support and share evidence based, evidence informed, and emerging interventions that focus on the specific needs of this community to improve the health and lives of transgender and gender diverse people with HIV.”
For more than three decades, HRSA’s Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program has provided a comprehensive system of primary HIV medical care, medication and essential support services to low-income people with HIV, including a specific focus on health equity, addressing social determinants of health, and supporting the specific needs of the community. The program serves approximately 50 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV in the United States. Of the more than 561,000 people served by the RWHAP in 2020, approximately 11,600 (2.1 percent), are transgender.