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World AIDS Day, 1st December 2022

December 1st is World AIDS Day. How has HIV and AIDS impacted the trans and gender diverse community?

Since the first cases of HIV and AIDS the virus has been associated with the LGBTQ+ community, with some using the disease to stigmatise and discriminate against LGBTQ+ people. When a relationship was established between how HIV can spread and non-heterosexual sexual behaviour, so the community was discriminated against and denied essential help and support, while ignorance proliferated.

People with AIDS have long been ostracised, a product of the ignorance and prejudices of those who do not understand the disease. Many hold false ideas of how it can be contracted.

As knowledge is power, it is time we debunk some myths around HIV and AIDS.

The virus is mainly passed on through unprotected sexual intercourse. Another means of transmission is via contaminated injection equipment.

  • HIV cannot be passed on through physical touch or saliva.
  • You cannot get HIV by being physically close to someone with the virus.
  • The virus cannot be passed on by hugging or holding hands.

Trans People, HIV and AIDS

One of the groups most affected by HIV are trans people, more specifically trans women.

Trans women are 66 times more likely to have the virus compared to the general population.

However, trans women are NOT more likely to contract HIV because they are trans.

This disproportionate rate is due to social systems of power that continue to marginalise trans people.

Trans people are less likely to be employed, more likely to experience homelessness, and less likely to receive adequate physical and mental healthcare.

All of these factors lead to trans people living on the streets, often working as sex workers and forced to face violence on a daily basis.

In return, this can lead to unsafe and unprotected sexual encounters and a heightened drug use – two of the main ways through which you can contract HIV.

Therefore, it is not trans people who are more likely to contract HIV, but society’s treatment of trans people that exposes trans people to dangerous environments that make transmission more possible.

Treatment of Queer and Trans People During the HIV Epidemic

During the HIV epidemic, queer and trans people, specifically trans people of colour, were disproportionately affected by the virus.

LGBTQ+ members continued to die, and governments did nothing to stop it.

Only after an unforgivable number of deaths did the US government step in and acknowledged the severity of the virus. Queer and trans people, in particular Black trans people, were seen as an afterthought.

Black trans people are hugely unequally affected by HIV. Over 20% of Black trans people in the United States are living with the disease.

This is in comparison with non-Black trans people’s rate of 2.64%, and 0.6% of CIS adults in the US.

This is NOT due to Black trans people being more predisposed to the virus but rather because they are one of the most marginalised groups in US and other western societies.

We have to keep fighting against HIV stigma.

While queer and trans people are disproportionately affected by it, anyone can contract the virus. HIV has gone from an untreatable ‘death sentence’ for the LGBTQ+ community to a virus we can live with.

Medicine like PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) can be taken to prevent getting HIV. PrEP reduces the risk of contracting HIV through sexual intercourse by 99% if taken correctly. Last year, the University of Oxford started their clinical trials for a potential HIV vaccine. The vaccine showed encouraging results.

As more knowledge and research becomes accessible to the public, it is time we acknowledge the discrimination the LGBTQ+ community has faced for decades due to homophobic and transphobic biases. This World AIDS Day, join the fight against HIV stigma and discrimination!