4 in 10 transgender women in seven major US cities have HIV: CDC

4 in 10 transgender women in seven major US cities have HIV: CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday released a report that determined 4 in 10 transgender women in seven major U.S. cities have HIV, which the agency said signaled a need to focus HIV prevention and treatment among the demographic.

The study conducted in 2019 and early 2020 found that 42 percent of 1,608 transgender women across Atlanta, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle with a valid test result had HIV.

The report, which the CDC labeled as one of the most comprehensive surveys of transgender women in the U.S., found 62 percent of Black transgender women and 35 percent of Hispanic or Latina transgender women had HIV. Meanwhile, 17 percent of white transgender women have the disease. 

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Almost two-thirds of the respondents reported living at or below the poverty level, and 17 percent had no health insurance. More than 4 in 10 experienced homelessness over the past year and 17 percent had been in prison. 

The research was released days ahead of National Transgender HIV Testing Day on Sunday.

Demetre Daskalakis, the director of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said in a release that decreasing the number of transgender women with HIV in these cities will require “innovative and comprehensive status-neutral solutions,” involving continuing engagement. 

“These data provide a clear and compelling picture of the severe toll of HIV among transgender women and the social and economic factors — including systemic racism and transphobia — that are contributing to this unacceptable burden,” Daskalakis said.

The study determined that 32 percent of respondents without HIV used pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a treatment for those at risk of HIV infection through sex or injection drug use. A total of 34 percent of participants said they had been involved in sex work.

The CDC cited previous studies that concluded that many transgender women may not use PrEP for different reasons, including medical mistrust, lack of transgender-inclusive marketing and worries about how it will interact with hormones. Sixty-seven percent of transgender women in the CDC survey reported taking hormones for their gender affirmation.