Preliminary findings from a small study in Western New York indicate that transgender women take more HIV tests than transgender men.
Among 27 urban transgender adults included in the study, those who identified as female reported taking more than three times as many HIV tests than those who identified as male, according to Adrian Juarez-Cuellar, PhD, RN, assistant professor of nursing, and Yu-Ping Chang, PhD, professor and associate dean for research and scholarship, both at the University of Buffalo School of Nursing.
Juarez-Cuellar and Chang’s findings were published recently in Transgender Health, the first peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the health care of transgender individuals, according to a news release.
Sheldon Morris MD, MPH, associate professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, called the findings “expected.” In a 2015 study, Morris and colleagues reported a higher prevalence of HIV among transgender men than transgender women who underwent voluntary testing in San Diego, but the result was based on just one positive test among 30 transgender males included in the cohort.
“Generally, we don’t think of as many transgender men at risk for HIV, although there are transgender men who primarily have sex with men,” Morris told Infectious Disease News.
Juarez-Cuellar and Chang analyzed existing data from HIV testing surveys collected for a statewide reporting system from 2007 to 2013. Adults who self-identified as transgender were included.
Of the 27 patients, 23 identified as female and four as male. Around 41% were white, 30% were black, 52% reported sex with a male, 56% had been incarcerated, 56% reported sex work and 96% reported a history of substance abuse. Three were HIV-positive, including one who had been diagnosed with AIDS.
Transgender women reported taking an average of 3.48 previous HIV tests, compared with an average of one test reported among the transgender men. Testing among blacks and Hispanics was more than twice as high as whites.
-Cuellar and Chang noted that the transgender population faces numerous barriers to care, and that the burden may be higher for those who identify as female.
“Although there are no national databases regarding the HIV burden in the transgender population, there is a small body of literature that confirms additional HIV burden and poorer outcomes in the transgender male-to-female population,” they wrote.
Juarez-Cuellar and Chang also noted several limitations of their study, including the small sample size, and said their results “should be interpreted with caution.” – by Gerard Gallagher
Green N, et al. Medicine. 2015;doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000001830.
Juarez-Cuellar A, Chang Y-P. Transgender Health. 2017;doi:10.1089/trgh.2016.0047.
Disclosure: Chang and Juarez-Cuellar report no relevant financial disclosures. Morris reports grant funding from the California HIV/AIDS Research Program, Gilead Sciences and the NIH.