Guest Post: Finding our T-Spot

25 October 2016

On 29th November, CliniQ and SWIFT will be hosting a joint event focusing on the health and wellbeing of transgender communities.

From worldwide data we know that transgender women are disproportionately impacted by HIV. Some data suggests that 19% of all transgender women are HIV positive. In areas where there are concentrated populations of say trans sex workers it is far easier to be accurate about the numbers of this key population who are positive and therefore to direct research and public health funding and campaigns to support them.

Sadly though even when there is adequate data to show that trans women are greatly impacted by HIV there is seldom targeted research and/or money to combat and support. Far too frequently transgender women are recorded as MSM and therefore any research is structured around an entirely different key population, the results often only show that under these terms transgender women appear non-adherent and as poor research subjects.

As a transgender women who is HIV and who once was a sex worker I can clearly state that my experience was entirely different to those MSM who became positive around the same time as I did, the very early 90s, and that the set of life experiences I had,  that often lead to one of the most marginalised, invisible communities being exposed to great risks, need exploring on their own terms.

What we do know about transgender people in this country is largely based on anecdote and guesswork. We are perceived to be a depressed community and therefore there is a presumed linear thread to both extremes. This has great truth embedded within but so far research has been conducted using ill-fitting frames of reference and often emotive language that does not hold up structural and systemic change.

Sadly the research on transgender men is almost entirely lacking (echoing the research on lesbians, bisexual women and HIV) and has its basis in a sexist notion that somehow trans men have an inextricable link to the ‘risks of women’ and are therefore not a key population.

Currently there is a real trend to include transgender women (especially) within emerging narratives (PrEP for example) but the inclusion is without data and therefore we are fragile words within the narrative because our needs, desires and risks are yet to be documented in any meaningful way thus leaving us almost the ‘babies in the bath water’.

This invitation-only event is the first of its kind to bring together some of the most incisive and experienced research minds in this field with campaigners, activists and media representatives in order to begin the conversation around the creation, collection and understanding of research which looks at the  transgender community, our  lives, HIV and holistic wellbeing

Juno Roche (Patron of CliniQ and Member of SWIFT Steering Group)

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