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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

FIU Research Points to Need for Enhanced HIV Screening and Outreach for Transgender Women

Researchers at the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work at Florida International University have published the study, Comparison of Individual and Area Level Factors Between HIV-Infected Cisgender and Transgender Individuals in Florida (2006-2014), which suggests HIV screening and outreach efforts should be enhanced for transgender women. This is one of few studies in the United States that uses systematically collected state-level data to describe characteristics of HIV-infected individuals by gender identity.

[Photo: Dr. Kristopher Fennie (left) and Dr. Mary Jo Trepka]

The study compares individual- and area-level factors among HIV-infected transgender and cisgender individuals in Florida using data from the Florida Department of Health HIV/AIDS surveillance system (2006-2014). Researchers found that of those individuals diagnosed with HIV, transgender females were more likely than cisgender women to be diagnosed with AIDS within three months of their HIV diagnosis.

It has long been acknowledged that transgender individuals are exposed to discrimination and violence, and they are at risk for unemployment and homelessness at higher rates than others. They have disparate access to health insurance and health care, and most are not engaged in the medical system until a medical crisis occurs. Data suggest they are also at increased risk for HIV.

Prevalence of HIV among transgender females is estimated at 27.7 percent, with 11.8 percent aware of their status. Non-Hispanic Black transgender females are disproportionately at greater risk compared to non-Hispanic White transgender females. The data points to a combination of mental health issues, stigma, limited access to care, and violence affect both HIV risk and outcomes in this population, indicating that efforts are needed to develop effective programs to care for this population.

The team working on the study includes FIU epidemiology professors Dr. Kristopher Fennie and Dr. Mary Jo Trepka, FIU researcher Dr. Khaleeq Lutfi, Ms. Lorene M. Maddox of the Florida Department of Health and Mr. Spencer Lieb of The AIDS Institute.

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