In Our Fight Against HIV, LGB is Not Enough … We Must Include the "T"

Published: November 4, 2014

The Huffington Post
Marcel Byrd
Original Article:

Advocacy for the health and safety of LGBT communities can’t just be about adding the "T" at the end of our priorities. The needs and experiences of transgender people must be at the forefront of our agenda. This year, actress and activist Lavern Cox brought unprecedented mainstream attention to the lives and experiences of transgender people, and the transgender community also achieved several long-fought policy victories. For example, Medicare was expanded to cover gender affirmation surgery and New York State now allows transgender people to change the gender on their birth certificates without proof of surgery. Even with these advancements, transgender people still face incredible threats to their health, including a grossly disproportionate burden of HIV. In fact, 1 in 5 transgender women in the U.S. is estimated to be HIV positive, compared to 1 in 32 black, cisgender women–the next highest at risk group of women. On a global scale, transgender women are 49 times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population.

What makes transgender people, especially transgender women, so much more at risk? We know that discrimination and transphobia play a huge role. The National Transgender Discrimination Study found that transgender people in the United States experience twice the rate of unemployment of the general population. Additionally, over one-quarter reported high rates of postponing medical care because of discrimination, and 48 percent said they could not afford needed medical care. Nearly two-thirds experienced serious acts of discrimination and violence, such as physical and/or sexual assault, and approximately 41 percent attempted suicide. These and other statistics illustrate the effects of a world in which transgender individuals are misunderstood, feared, persecuted, and face life-threatening discrimination and violence.

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