HIV and Trans Women: A Literature Review

Transgend Health. 2018; 3(1): 239–250

Abstract:

Trans women are a key, yet under-researched, population in the HIV epidemic. However, there remains a paucity of data on the health and wellbeing of trans women at risk of, or living with, HIV in the United Kingdom.

This article provides a narrative review of key empirical research into HIV among trans women. In an effort to explore individual and social factors in relation to HIV in this population, we outline key tenets of identity process theory from social psychology and the concept of structural violence from medical anthropology.

We focus on published studies around the following themes: (1) epidemiological data, (2) syndemic factors (3) barriers to social support, (4) HIV and gender transitioning, and (5) access to and engagement with health care.

We identify lacunae and thus call for United Kingdom-based research in the following areas: (1) the prevalence and incidence of HIV in trans women, (2) the impact of syndemic factors on HIV risk and acquisition in trans women, (3) the nature of social support for coping with syndemic factors, (4) the interface of gender transitioning and HIV, and (5) barriers to accessing HIV prevention and care services.

There is great scope (and urgency) for research into HIV among trans women, especially in the United Kingdom, to reduce incidence in this group, to enhance engagement in HIV care across the care continuum, and to improve the health and wellbeing of those living with HIV. A tentative model for HIV prevention and care is presented in this article.

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