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New amfAR and GATE Report Sheds Light on Community-led Efforts in Transgender Health and Rights Advocacy

At High Risk for HIV, Trans Individuals Are Organizing and Advocating for Social and Legal Change 

NEW YORK, July 23, 2014 – Across the globe, transgender people continue to fight for an equal place in society and are using the power of community organization and mobilization to respond to the HIV epidemic that disproportionately affects them, according to a new report by amfAR and Global Action for Trans* Equality (GATE).  The report, Lessons From the Front Lines: Trans Health and Rights, was released during the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia, this week. 

Extreme social and institutional discrimination make trans people particularly vulnerable to HIV infection. They face widespread stigma, sexual violence, substance abuse, and lack of access to healthcare, including transitioning healthcare, stable housing and employment. In many cases, these factors combine to prevent trans people from accessing HIV prevention and treatment.

Little data exists on HIV among transgender populations in many countries, but a recent study analyzing the available data reports that, globally, the HIV rate among the trans women is approximately 49 times the rate among the general population—and more than double the rate among men who have sex with men (MSM). Unfortunately, there is virtually no data on trans men. 

“Trans people face many similar challenges around the world and in most countries cannot even get legal recognition of their gender identities,” said Kent Klindera, director of amfAR’s GMT Initiative. “Achieving an AIDS-free generation requires stepping up our efforts to address the specific needs of trans populations. While we still have a long way to go, we are starting to see some momentum in transgender health rights advocacy all over the world.”

The new report profiles ten amfAR GMT Initiative partners from Bolivia, China, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Georgia, Peru, South Africa, and Ukraine. Many of the organizations are led by trans individuals. The report examines their efforts to gather data on the trans population, provide them with HIV and other health services, and advocate for their rights. It also details the challenges they have faced, how those challenges were confronted, solved, or incorporated into new strategies, and the lessons learned.

“This report helped us realize the key to success is seeing trans people themselves in leadership roles -- within social, legal, and political processes concerning themselves,”  said Mauro Cabral, Co-director of GATE and the primary author of the publication.  Providing training and giving trans activists platforms to speak about their own experiences and advocate for their rights is also essential.  And while health centers that provide access to trans-friendly services and care for people with HIV are critically important, access to emotional and psychosocial support is also needed.

Whereas little formal research has been done on the health and human rights of trans people in many countries, the report found that involving trans individuals in the design, development and implementation of research projects within the trans community is fundamental to increasing community participation.
Since many of the organizations operate in the context of severe social and institutional transphobia, working with governments requires developing strong relationships with key policy makers, and organizations must be flexible and open to negotiation. Additionally, setting identity legislation as a future advocacy goal event when it is not yet a reality helps to mobilize trans communities.

Since 2007, amfAR’s GMT Initiative has provided technical and financial support to community organizations working to combat HIV among trans individuals (and gay men and other MSM) in low- and middle-income countries.

The full report can be downloaded here.

About amfAR                
amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested more than $388 million in its programs and has awarded more than 3,300 grants to research teams worldwide.

About GATE
Global Action for Trans* for Trans Equality (GATE) is a trans* network coordinator, facilitator and advocate to the ‘outside’ world. GATE works to unite trans* movements for common goals, while developing trans* agendas on a conceptual policy level.  GATE also assist trans* movements and structures at the local, national and regional level, to facilitate the development of a new global networks of trans* organizations. Important to the work of GATE is its support of constructive communications between existing groups and new audiences.


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