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National Transgender HIV Testing Day

With actions like the transgender troop ban, the current administration is directly targeting trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming folks and putting their health, wellness, and overall safety at risk. In addition to these sort of direct attacks, this administration’s attempts to weaken access to health care also puts additional stress on a population that already has an above-average need for health and wellness services. Thankfully, Equitas Health, along with a number of other organizations across Ohio, are working every day to maintain linkage to care for the trans community.

One area of heightened need among trans folks is for HIV education, testing, prevention, and treatment. While we are always in a state of severe need for more (and better) data about this population, the numbers we do have are startling, and should spur institutions and individuals to action.

About six tenths of one percent of the overall US population is living with HIV. According to one 2018 study, Transgender people face elevated HIV risk. This study showed that about 1 in 7 (14%) transgender women overall are living with HIV, and that the percentage is significantly higher among black/African-American (44%) and Hispanic/Latina (26%) transgender women. In addition, an estimated 3% of transgender men have HIV. No specific data on HIV among non-binary folks is yet available.

Trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people are more likely to face obstacles that make it harder to access HIV services—such as stigma and discrimination, inadequate employment or housing, and limited access to welcoming, supportive health care. These barriers are significantly more daunting for trans folks of color, disabled trans people, and other trans individuals who experience multiple forms of marginalization. Addressing these barriers is essential to achieving health equity for all transgender people.

The good news? We now know that people living with HIV who are able to adhere to their prescribed medication regimes can achieve viral suppression, and thus not be able to transmit the virus via sexual contact. In addition, people living with HIV who achieve viral suppression have life expectancy near that of the rest of the population. Because of this, it is crucial that at-risk populations, including trans folks, first get tested for HIV, and then start treatment if needed.

Equitas Health provides free HIV testing, often without an appointment, at facilities across the state of Ohio. Here’s a list of our offices around the state that provide these services, and further information can be found at the Ohio HIV/STD Hotline. For those of us living with HIV, Equitas Health also provides a wide range of additional treatments and services. If you have further questions, please contact Community Engagement Manager Dom Ali at dominicali@equitashealth.com.