HIV, as we know it, is a virus that damages the immune system and makes you more susceptible to other diseases. If left untreated, HIV can deteriorate to stage 3, an advanced stage known as AIDS.

A population that is mostly ignored in HIV/AIDS research and treatment is the transgender community. This is caused by stigmatisation, discrimination, economic vulnerability, etc.

However, before going further in this article, what makes up the transgender population?

Transgender is an umbrella word for persons whose gender identity is different from their assigned sex at birth.

Transgender is commonly abbreviated and known as trans.

For example, a transgender man was born with female sex organs but now identifies as male. On the other hand, a trans woman is an adult who was born male but now identifies as a female.

The majority of transgender people choose surgery or hormonal transition, or both, to change their appearance and match their gender identification.

What does the transgender population have to do with HIV/AIDS?

  1. In previous research, transgender persons are counted according to their biological sex, ignoring their identities and making them invisible to public health professionals and advocacy groups like NHVMAS working on HIV prevention, treatment, and care.
  2. Transgender persons suffer a higher incidence of bias in the health world. Examples of such bias are; doctors who don’t know how to care for transgender persons, refuse to treat them or abuse them. It also includes non-transgender-inclusive health insurance coverage that might put people at risk of contracting HIV.
  3. Due to social bias, especially in a country like Nigeria, transgender persons may experience higher unemployment, housing discrimination, and poverty, making testing and treatment more difficult to come by and afford. When that happens, they will not be able to know their HIV status and will fail to take the essential steps to prevent the virus from spreading to others.
  4. As I mentioned earlier, some transgender persons may choose injectable hormonal transitions to change their appearance to match their gender identification. However, due to the possibility of sharing needles or using dirty needles, transgender persons may be exposed to HIV transmission.

How do we prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS among the transgender population?

  1. If you’re transitioning using injectable hormonal medicines, make sure you use a fresh needle for each injection and don’t share needles.
  2. The danger of HIV transmission is reduced by limiting the number of sexual partners. This applies to both cisgender and transgender persons.
  3. The use of condoms greatly reduces the spread or transmission of HIV/AIDS. Taking PrEP before sexual contact can also reduce the risk of contracting HIV.
  4. Visit any credible hospital in your area to be tested, or reach out to us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Visit the NHVMAS website if you’d like to learn more about what we do or how you can help stop HIV/AIDS from spreading in Nigeria. The change begins with you and me.

– Oluwaremilekun Adenike, 2022 LeNNiB Champion