Transgender Advocates and Global Forum on MSM & HIV Launch New Collaborative Effort

Published: November 10, 2011

Transgender Advocates and Global Forum on MSM & HIV Launch New Collaborative Effort

A group of transgender advocates from around the world in partnership with the Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) is pleased to announce the formation of a new collaborative reference group to address the health and human rights of transgender people and men who have sex with men (MSM) worldwide.  Composed of members from Argentina, Australia, India, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Peru, Romania, South Africa, Sweden and the United States, the reference group will organize meaningful advocacy at the global level on behalf of transgender communities, provide the MSMGF with guidance on trans and gender-variance issues, and identify opportunities for mutual cooperation and shared action across both populations. 

Transgender people, especially transgender women and sex workers, have recorded disproportionately higher HIV rates and poorer health outcomes compared to the general population worldwide. HIV prevalence has skyrocketed in transgender communities around the world, with infection rates recorded as high as 78% among transgender women in some contexts. Despite the clear need to address the epidemic among this population, there remains a dearth of information on HIV among transgender people.  More research is needed to understand HIV risk and effective interventions for transgender people, including trans men who have sex with men.

Transgender communities also shoulder the full range of legal, social and cultural barriers that impede effective public health responses and undermine access to HIV and health services. Transgender women and men across all world regions continue to be targets of violence simply because of who they are. A recent update from the Trans Murder Monitoring Project revealed that a total of 539 transgender people were reported killed in the three-year period from 2008 – 2010. Few countries legally recognize the gender identities of transgender people and even fewer have enacted laws to protect them from human rights abuses. The World Health Organization and leading psychiatric institutions such as the American Psychiatric Association continue to misclassify transgender identities as a pathological condition, leading to rejection, social isolation and marginalization of transgender people. While these challenges are unique to transgender people in many respects, they echo the stigma, discrimination and disproportiona
te HIV rates experienced by MSM around the world.

The global AIDS response has been passive in recognizing transgender people as a population with unique HIV needs, separate from those of gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM). Programming and funding that explicitly targets transgender people is rare.  Where it does exist, it often conflates transgender needs with the needs of MSM. 

“With good intentions to serve transgender groups, AIDS funders and implementers alike have often neglected consulting our transgender brothers and sisters,” said Dr. George Ayala, Executive Officer of the MSMGF. “This has led to inappropriate programming, funding gaps, and a dearth of responsive services for transgender populations.”

In recognition of these shared challenges, the MSMGF Transgender Reference Group welcomes the opportunity to create more responsive partnerships between transgender and MSM communities worldwide.

“Transgender people and marginalized sexual minorities have similar experiences of being shunned by society and the law as a result of associated behaviors and identities,” said JoAnne Keatley, Director of the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health and long-time advisor on trans health issues to the MSMGF. “Although transgender people and MSM must continue to advocate for their own health and rights, this collaboration strengthens our efforts in elevating our mutual needs at the global level.”

The MSMGF Global Transgender Reference Group, Co-Chaired by JoAnne Keatley and Mauro Cabral, Co-Director of Global Action for Trans* Equality, is comprised of the following individuals.

1.    Jana Villayzan Aguilar (Peru)
2.    Mauro Cabral (Argentina)
3.    Justus Eisfeld (USA)
4.    Aram Hosie (Australia)
5.    JoAnne Keatley (USA)
6.    He Jin Kim (South Africa)
7.    Amitava Sarkar (India)
8.    Sass Rogando Sasot (Netherlands)
9.    Khartini Slamah (Malaysia)
10.    Michelle Melek Stefanescu (Romania)
11.    Maria Sundin (Sweden)

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