Understanding the trans communityThe first-ever NHBS-Trans study sets a baseline for monitoring sexual behaviors among transwomen—with the ultimate goal of lowering the number of new HIV infections among this population.
Leading this groundbreaking work is our own transgender expert and public health researcher Evelyn Olansky, who is transgender herself. “The first success of the NHBS-Trans study is how it affirms transgender lives,” she says.
Significant initial findings
Evelyn and her team conducted the initial formative research then identified and interviewed 1,608 transgender women in seven cities with high levels of HIV cases. This sample represented one of the largest intentional samples of a trans population in the history of trans research.
We also provided on- and off-site coordination, data management and coordination, and hands-on technical assistance throughout the study period. Evelyn, along with health data analysts Lindsay Trujillo and Anna Teplinskaya, were also part of the NHBS-Trans Study Group that prepared the report.
The findings were significant—including that 42% of those interviewed already had HIV, highlighting the urgent need for more HIV prevention and treatment services for this population.
The study also found that HIV was more common among Black/African American and Hispanic/Latina transgender women. And that many transwomen experience poverty and homelessness—factors that can affect overall health.
Demetre Daskalakis, director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, shared in this press release, “These data provide a clear and compelling picture of the severe toll of HIV among transgender women and the social and economic factors that are contributing to this unacceptable burden.”
Impact on future studies
Our work will help improve future efforts to reach trans populations and other hard-to-reach groups. Our team learned a lot about how to design and run projects focused on transgender people, particularly transwomen. Evelyn adds, “Anyone can work with transgender populations, but to work well, you need to have transgender people on your team.”
While this HIV-focused report includes data on transgender women, many people across the trans and gender nonconforming spectrum face similar social and economic factors, the impacts of which remain largely unmeasured.