Peer-led assessment of transgender sex workers in Cali, Colombia

Published: August 1, 2008

Peer-led assessment of transgender sex workers in Cali, Colombia

Issues: In Colombia, few HIV/AIDS prevention programmes have directly targetted the transgender comunity. There are few groups of transgender people playing an active role in the HIV/AIDS response and so, there is little understanding of the context, reality and needs of this population group.

Description: At the start of 2007, Fundación Santamaría, a community-based organisation of transgender people working for transgenders in Calí, successfully advocated for funds from the municipal health authorities to carry out a peer-led assessment of transgender sex workers. The assessment reached 272 transgenders in 12 sex work zones. Results showed that transgender sex workers in Cali have little, erroneous or no access to HIV/AIDS information, few are affiliated to the General System for Social Security for Health (SGSSS in Spanish) and intake of hormones is frequently self-prescribed and self-administered, contributing to further health risks. Many have suffered intra-familial violence and human rights abuses on the part of police authorities. Stigma and discrimination by health and police authorities act as a barrier preventing transgender sex workers from taking an HIV test or accessing health services. Additionally, they fear an HIV positive diagnosis, not knowing that treatment can accessed through affiliation to the SGSSS.

Lessons learned: There is a great need for information specifically targetted at transgender sex workers, particularly about health-related rights. High levels of mistrust exist among transgender sex workers due to issues of survival-related territoriality further fuelled by stigma and poverty. This has hindered mobilisation of transgender sex workers into groups. Yet, many expressed need for a neutral safe space where they could get together, share information and discuss their reality.

Next steps: Create and sustain a neutral safe space for transgender sex workers to meet frequently so as to increase social capital. Sensitisation of health professionals to transgender issues. Development of transgender specific IEC materials.

-Abstract available at link below-

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