Transgender in Africa: Invisible, inaccessible, or ignored?

SAHARA J: journal of Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS Research Alliance / SAHARA , Human Sciences Research Council (Impact Factor: 0.81). 09/2012; 9(3):160-3. DOI: 10.1080/17290376.2012.743829
Source: PubMed


Transgender people are an important key population for HIV risk globally, and several studies have found HIV prevalence rates in transgender populations that are significantly higher than those among other key populations such as men who have sex with men (MSM). There is a lack of research on transgender populations in Africa, and at present, there is almost no data available on HIV prevalence and risk among transgender people on the continent. It is possible that the invisibility of transgender people in epidemiological data from Africa is related to the criminalisation of same-sex behaviour in many countries and the subsequent fear of negative repercussions from participation in research. Alternatively, transgender people may be being overlooked in research due to confusion among researchers about how to ask questions about gender identity. It is also possible that transgender populations have simply been ignored in research to date. Without research on transgender-specific HIV prevalence and risk, it is very difficult to know what interventions and services are needed for this risk population. Therefore, it is important that researchers, governments, Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and donor organisations begin to pay explicit attention to transgender people in their HIV-related research and programmes in Africa.

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Available from: Geoffrey Jobson, Jan 06, 2014
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    • "These findings are similar to other studies across Africa where MSM report high levels of sexual victimization, physical and verbal abuse[12]. In our study, individuals who identify as transgender described greater perceived stigma and discrimination than men who identified as gay; other studies suggest they also may be at increased risk for infection [17].Greater stigma and discrimination may be due to their appearance and lack of secrecy. Men describe experiences where they are ostracized from their families, dismissed from places of employment, thrown out of schools, severely discriminated against in health care settings and beaten by police for their sexual orientation. "
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Previous systematic reviews have identified a high prevalence of HIV infection in transgender women in the USA and in those who sell sex (compared with both female and male sex workers). However, little is known about the burden of HIV infection in transgender women worldwide. We aimed to better assess the relative HIV burden in all transgender women worldwide. METHODS: We did a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies that assessed HIV infection burdens in transgender women that were published between Jan 1, 2000, and Nov 30, 2011. Meta-analysis was completed with the Mantel-Haenszel method, and random-effects modelling was used to compare HIV burdens in transgender women with that in adults in the countries for which data were available. FINDINGS: Data were only available for countries with male-predominant HIV epidemics, which included the USA, six Asia-Pacific countries, five in Latin America, and three in Europe. The pooled HIV prevalence was 19·1% (95% CI 17·4-20·7) in 11 066 transgender women worldwide. In 7197 transgender women sampled in ten low-income and middle-income countries, HIV prevalence was 17·7% (95% CI 15·6-19·8). In 3869 transgender women sampled in five high-income countries, HIV prevalence was 21·6% (95% CI 18·8-24·3). The odds ratio for being infected with HIV in transgender women compared with all adults of reproductive age across the 15 countries was 48·8 (95% CI 21·2-76·3) and did not differ for those in low-income and middle-income countries compared with those in high-income countries. INTERPRETATION: Our findings suggest that transgender women are a very high burden population for HIV and are in urgent need of prevention, treatment, and care services. The meta-analysis showed remarkable consistency and severity of the HIV disease burden among transgender women. FUNDING: Center for AIDS Research at Johns Hopkins and the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the JHU Bloomberg School of Public Health.
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    ABSTRACT: Introduction: Similar to other Southern African countries, Swaziland has been severely affected by HIV, with over a quarter of its reproductive-age adults estimated to be living with the virus, equating to an estimate of 170,000 people living with HIV. The last several years have witnessed an increase in the understanding of the potential vulnerabilities among men who have sex with men (MSM) in neighbouring countries with similarly widespread HIV epidemics. To date, there are no data characterizing the burden of HIV and the HIV prevention, treatment and care needs of MSM in Swaziland. Methods: In 2011, 324 men who reported sex with another man in the last 12 months were accrued using respondent-driven sampling (RDS). Participants completed HIV testing using Swazi national guidelines as well as structured survey instruments administered by trained staff, including modules on demographics, individual-level behavioural and biological risk factors, social and structural characteristics and uptake of HIV services. Population and individual weights were computed separately for each variable with a data-smoothing algorithm. The weights were used to estimate RDS-adjusted univariate estimates with 95% bootstrapped confidence intervals (BCIs). Crude and RDS-adjusted bivariate and multivariate analyses were completed with HIV as the dependent variable. Results: Overall, HIV prevalence was 17.6% (n=50/284), although it was strongly correlated with age in bivariate- [odds ratio (OR) 1.2, 95% BCI 1.15-1.21] and multivariate-adjusted analyses (adjusted OR 1.24, 95% BCI 1.14-1.35) for each additional year of age. Nearly, 70.8% (n=34/48) were unaware of their status of living with HIV. Condom use with all sexual partners and condom-compatible-lubricant use with men were reported by 1.3% (95% CI 0.0-9.7). Conclusions: Although the epidemic in Swaziland is driven by high-risk heterosexual transmission, the burden of HIV and the HIV prevention, treatment and care needs of MSM have been understudied. The data presented here suggest that these men have specific HIV acquisition and transmission risks that differ from those of other reproductive-age adults. The scale-up in HIV services over the past decade has likely had limited benefit for MSM, potentially resulting in a scenario where epidemics of HIV among MSM expand in the context of slowing epidemics in the general population, a reality observed in most of the world.
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