To mark #TransWeek, Greater Than AIDS joins with IRGT: A Global Network of Transgender Women and HIV to go behind-the-scenes at the 21st International AIDS Conference held earlier this year in Durban, South Africa.
Blossom Brown, who appeared on the TV series I Am Cait and is frequent voice for trans health and rights, reports from this year’s conference for Greater Than AIDS.
Through her own reflections as well as interviews with trans leaders from the around the world, Brown explores how the trans community is coming together to change the course of the epidemic, which disproportionately affects trans women.
Globally, trans women are nearly 50 times more likely to have HIV as compared to other populations. In the U.S., the CDC reports one in four trans women is living with HIV, including more than half of Black trans women.
The #TransEmpowered campaign was featured as part of the first-ever trans-focused pre-conference “No More Lip Service: Trans Access, Equity, and Rights Now!” Produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the UCSF Center of Excellence for Transgender Health with funding from ViiV Healthcare’s Positive Action Programme, the campaign gives voice to trans women to share their own narrative about HIV, both the impact and the response that is needed.
“Our stories make an impact,” says Brown of her work with the #TransEmpowered campaign, which gives voice to transgender women to share their own narrative about HIV.
Cecilia Chung of the Transgender Law Center expands on this idea, adding, “It’s especially important for transgender women living with HIV to have that chance to tell their individual stories. That’s the only way that we will see the shift that we’ve been trying to achieve.”
At a time of growing dialogue about transgender people and issues, the impact of HIV on the community has been largely absent. Transgender women are among those at highest risk for HIV today. “There’s something about our system that’s broken and we need to start a conversation here about how to fix it,” said Owen Ryan with the International AIDS Society of the decision to host a trans focused pre-conference.
“TransEmpowered is about giving voice to transgender women to speak about the issue that HIV is having on the community. And also to talk about the solutions and what is needed so that we can bring down the rates of HIV,” said Tina Hoff, Senior Vice President and Director of Health Communication and Media Partnerships at the Kaiser Family Foundation, which directs Greater Than AIDS.
As Shannon Weber of HIVE/PleasePrEPMe.org says, “I can’t wait to see when people around the world are able to jump in and participate in the Trans Empowered campaign.”