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Transgenders prone to HIV infection

Health & Science - By By PETER ORENGO | June 28th 2013 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

By PETER ORENGO

Kenya: Several studies show that transgender women are 49 times more likely to be infected with HIV compared to adults in the general population.

The studies, done by Johns Hopkins and the Center for Public Health, and published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases suggests that transgender women are a very high burden population for HIV and are in urgent need of prevention, treatment, and care services.

A total of 39 studies involving more than 11,000 transgender women in 15 different countries were included in the study Worldwide Burden of HIV in Transgender Women: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis, which also found that prevalence of HIV in this group was massively higher than that seen in the general population.

Overall, basic HIV prevalence was 27·3 per cent in transgender women engaging in sex work, 14·7 per cent in those not engaging in sex work, 15·1 per cent in male sex workers, and 4·5 per cent in female sex workers.

“These data highlight the disproportionate burden of HIV infections in transgender women sex workers compared with female sex workers. It also shows that transgender sex workers are more than four times more likely to be living with HIV than were female sex workers,” said Dr Stefan Baral, lead author of one of the researches.

According to Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, discrimination may help explain why transgender people who experience significant economic difficulties often pursue high-risk activities, including sex work, to meet their basic survival needs. Social stigma also may explain why some transgender people engage in unprotected intercourse with their sex partners.

Just recently, the story of Audrey Mbugua, born Andrew Mbugua, captured the minds of the international community when she affirmed changing her gender from that of a man to a woman.

In an exclusive interview with The Standard, Audrey explained how she had struggled with the metamorphosis of her body in silence, and at one time almost committed suicide.

Qualitative data of transgender study suggest that some transgender people experience high rates of depression, emotional distress, loneliness, and social isolation have been linked to suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts by transgender people.

The authors emphasise that few healthcare workers, from HIV counsellors to nurses and physicians, have received any training on addressing the specific health needs of transgender women.

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