amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Ecuadorian Trans Advocacy Group’s Study Gains International Attention

Silueta X is a grassroots organization in Ecuador that was started in 2008 by Diane Rodriguez, a transsexual activist.  Ms. Rodriguez ran—unsuccessfully as it turned out—for a congressional seat in the leftist Ruptura 25 party during the presidential and parliamentary elections held on Sunday, February 17.  Had she won, she would have been the first transgender person to hold public office in Ecuador and the first openly transgender lawmaker in South America.  In an interview with Agence France-Presse she stated that her focus would have been on all minorities, vulnerable ethnic groups and feminist causes.

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amfAR GMT Initiative Director Kent Klindera, Diane Rodriguez, and amfAR GMT Initiative Monitoring and Evaluation Advisor Ben Clapham pose with an honorary award recognizing amfAR’s contribution to the study.  

Ms. Rodriguez will continue her work as the director of Silueta X, a recipient of a 2012 community award from amfAR’s GMT Initiative (formerly the MSM Initiative).  The organization promotes human rights for all groups, focusing on young transvestite, transgender, and transsexual individuals, and provides community education and HIV prevention services.  With funding from amfAR, the group conducted a study—the first of its kind—to determine which factors influence the transmission of HIV among transgender people and to measure discrimination against transgender people on the Ecuadorian coast. 

The project made waves in Ecuador and the findings were reported in El Telégrafo, a major news source in the country, as well as by the Ministry of Health.  In addition, Silueta X earned the attention of key people and organizations including the Governor of Guayas, the Mayor of Guayaquil, the Ministries of Health, Education, Justice, Interior, and Economic and Social Inclusion, as well as international groups including UNAIDS and the Pan American Health Organization.  Leaders from the National AIDS Program, the Ministry of Health, and the Transition Commission for Gender Equality committed to work together to improve the situation reflected by the report.

The results spurred the government to conduct the first survey of LGBT populations in the country’s history. “In this sense we feel proud as transsexuals to have initiated our investigation and motivated the government to follow in our footsteps,” stated a report from the group.  Silueta X’s study has provided a jumping-off point from which the organization hopes that other groups in the region will launch similar campaigns for LGBT rights.  

To further Silueta X’s work, the GMT Initiative has awarded the group an advocacy grant.  The money will be used to help Silueta X advocate for greater access to health and education for transgender people at the national level.

Since 2007, amfAR’s GMT Initiative has been providing financial and technical support to community organizations working to reduce the spread and impact of HIV among gay men, other men who have sex with men (MSM), and transgender people (collectively, GMT).  To date, amfAR has awarded more than $3 million to support frontline organizations serving GMT in more than 70 countries.