November is Transgender Awareness Month!

transgender awareness month

November is officially here! You know what that means – It’s time for family, friends, Christmas music, and more turkey and stuffing than you could ever eat in one sitting! But November is also an important month for an entirely different reason – it’s Transgender Awareness Month.

At besafemeds, we feel it’s important to represent and advocate for everyone, especially minorities and those who don’t always have equal access to healthcare. That’s why we want to shed a light on Trans Awareness Week, which is coming up on November 14th – 20th.  According to GLAAD, Transgender Awareness Week is “a time for transgender people and their allies to take action and bring attention to the community by educating the public and advancing advocacy around the issues of prejudice, discrimination, and violence that transgender people face.” November 20th also marks Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), which is observed annually to honor the memory of transgender men and women who lost their lives due to anti-transgender violence.

The topic of gender and sex can be a difficult one to understand. Before we dive into the prevalence of STDs among transgender people, it is important to ensure you have an accurate and informed understanding of what it means to be transgender.

What Does Transgender Mean?

Transgender is the term used to describe those “whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.” Transgender is the umbrella term used, while people under that umbrella may choose to describe themselves using a range of terms, such as transsexual or non-binary. You should always ask what term an individual person prefers to go by.

Sex is defined as “the classification of a person as male or female.” You are assigned a sex at birth, but for those who are transgender, their own personal sense of their gender (their gender identity) does not match the sex they were assigned at birth.

It is also important to note that being transgender is not dependent upon transitioning or medical procedures. Many transgender people do “seek to bring their bodies into alignment with their gender identity,” through the transition process, but not all transgender people decide to take that step.

HIV and the Transgender Community

While transgender people are considered to be a minority, there are an estimated 25 million transgender people living across the world. They are at an increased risk for HIV infection and transmission, and reports that transgender people are 49 times more at risk of contracting HIV than the general population. In recognition of Transgender Awareness Week, we want to take this opportunity to bring awareness to some alarming statistics from the Human Rights Campaign about HIV and the transgender community:

  • 19.1% of transgender women worldwide are living with HIV
  • 21.6% of transgender women in the U.S. are living with HIV
  • Transgender people of color experience higher rates of HIV
  • 19% of transgender people surveyed for the National Transgender Discrimination Survey reported being refused medical treatment due to their gender identity
  • 18% reported being harassed at a doctor’s office

Why are Transgender People At Increased Risk for HIV?

There is a distinct lack of data and research related to HIV among the transgender population. However, we do know that transgender people face certain factors that put them at potentially higher risk for contracting HIV. According to the CDC, these factors include:

  • Stigma and Discrimination: Unfortunately, there is a lack of understanding and a stigma associated with being transgender. Transgender people often face discrimination, hate, and violence. The fear of facing discrimination, along with a lack of familial and social support, can impact access to proper sexual education and healthcare.
  • Violence and Sexual Abuse: Transgender people may face sexual abuse, physical abuse, or IPV (Intimate Partner Violence), which may inhibit their ability to use condoms and other methods of STD prevention. As the CDC notes, “not only are IPV and sexual abuse themselves risk factors for HIV; their other effects—such as depression, increased rates of substance abuse, and reduced willingness to seek medical care and services—can also increase one’s risk of HIV infection.”
  • Unemployment and Homelessness: Due to transphobia and discrimination, transgender people may have difficulty obtaining a job or finding a place to live. This can lead to homelessness, alcohol and drug abuse, incarceration, sex work, and mental health issues, all of which impact the transgender community at higher rate and are well-known risk factors for HIV.
  • Lack of Access to Proper Healthcare: Historically, transgender people have faced discrimination when seeking medical care for a number of health issues, including STDs. The CDC notes that “many transgender people are also affected by negative experiences with healthcare providers, as few providers receive adequate training or are sufficiently knowledgeable about transgender-specific health needs. These experiences may discourage them from disclosing their gender identity and keep them from receiving prevention and care services they need.”
  • Lack of Access to HIV Treatment: Studies show that transgender men and women have less access to antiretroviral treatment for HIV. This is due to a number of factors, including transphobia. In one particular study, of those living with HIV in the U.S., 82% of those with a “birth-assigned gender” had access to antiretroviral treatment. Comparatively, only 59% of transgender people had access.

At besafemeds, we treat everyone, regardless of sex, gender, or orientation. That’s why we provide online private std treatment, for those who may not be comfortable going to a doctor for STD treatment. If you are transgender and suspect you may have an STD, we can help. Simply fill out our online diagnostic form and a licensed nurse practitioner or doctor will call you to discuss your diagnosis and offer treatment options.

To learn more about Transgender Awareness Week and how you can get involved, visit GLAAD’s website!

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