Thursday, 12 December 2013

Forgotten Community

Image from Transgender Equality Uganda

From 7-11 December, thousands of the world's leading scientists, policy makers, activists, government leaders - as well as a number of heads of state and civil society representatives - are gathered in Cape Town to discuss how to achieve the vision of a world with zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths...

...according to Beyonce Karungi, a transgender woman from Uganda, HIV programmes do not target transgender and lesbian women because they are viewed not to be a threat to the HIV epidemic.

"We've been left out of programmes, we've been left out of preventive and awareness messages, we've been left out of care and treatment; it's like we don't exist and are seen as a pariah in society or non-existent," she said...

The transgender community lacks access to HIV preventive and skilled health care as well as facing social, economic and institutional stigma because many HIV prevention programmes for most at risk populations are directed towards men who have sex with other men. Existing prevention efforts do not meet the needs of most transgender people, so they do not seek health care or disclose their HIV status.

Due to the stigma and discrimination they face, a lot of transgender women are pushed into sex work to support themselves because potential employers do not want to engage them, regardless of their skills and expertise...

According to an international analysis published in 2008 in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, transgender female sex workers are at four times greater risk of contracting HIV than other female sex workers.

In countries struggling to distinguish between gay people and paedophiles, we fear it may be a long wait before the distinction between gay, lesbian and transgender is finally grasped.

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