NCTE Commemorates World AIDS Day

December 2, 2012

On this World AIDS Day, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) honors those living with HIV/AIDS, and remembers those we have lost. World AIDS Day is an international day of awareness, and a time for renewed commitment toward ending this epidemic.

There are an estimated 34 million people living with HIV, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). While the stigma of the disease is changing, there are still large populations of disproportionately affected people including transgender people, women of color, and transgender women of color. In the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, a study of more than 6,500 trans and gender non-conforming people, respondents reported four times the rate of HIV infection compared to the general adult population. These rates were devastatingly higher for transgender people of color: 25% of African Americans, 11% of Latinos and Latinas, 7% of American Indians, and 3.7% of Asian Americans reported HIV infection.

World AIDS Day also highlights the impact on Black women who account for 30% of all new HIV infections among African Americans. “World AIDS Day should be used to honor those who are no longer with us and to educate those who may not know us,” said Valerie Spencer,  trans activist. Spencer added, “With all of those things that Black women carried, they made a way for us to be who we are becoming today.”

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XIX International AIDS Conference: The Beginning of the End?

July 24, 2012

Sunday marked the start of the International AIDS Conference: Turning the Tide Together, being held in the United States for the first time since 1990. This conference allows professionals working in the field of HIV, individuals who are living with HIV, and advocates to come together, share new research from the field and strategize a plan to end the AIDS pandemic. The historic return of the conference to the US was made possible by the elimination in 2009 of the notorious ban on people with HIV traveling to the US.

Findings in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey show alarmingly high rates of HIV in trans people with rates skyrocketing trans people of color:

  • Respondents reported over four times the national average of HIV infection with 2.46% compared to 0.6%.
  • 24.90% of African-American participants reported being HIV positive compared with national rate of 2.4% African Americans
  • 10.92% of Latino/a participants reported being HIV positive compared with national rate of .08% Latino/as.

Transgender advocates from around the nation and the world are sharing strategies, research, and stories at the conference. If you are in the Washington, DC area, you can hear and network from these activists and many others in the conference’s Global Village, which is free and open to the public.

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The Truth About HIV/AIDS Among Trans People

November 30, 2011

As we move into World AIDS Day tomorrow, NCTE’s Mara Keisling said:

“For transgender people, World AIDS Day is a time for both quiet reflection and focused action. The truth is sobering–trans people have contracted HIV at rates four times the national average, with rates especially high among trans women and trans people of color. This epidemic, made worse by harassment, violence and unemployment, spells the tragic loss of trans people around the world.

In NCTE’s groundbreaking National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS), conducted with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, our sample of nearly 6,500 trans people reported a 2.6 percent HIV infection rate, over four times the rate of the general adult population (0.6 percent). An additional 8 percent did not know their status.

White House Honors World AIDS Day

Photo by Jamal Brown

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Important HIV/AIDS Prevention Study Included Transgender Women

December 6, 2010

Last week, NCTE focused on HIV/AIDS awareness for World AIDS Day. We recognize that we must focus on this issue year round because HIV/AIDS affects transgender people at disproportionate rates. Transgender people’s HIV infection rates show that there is still much work left to do to eliminate discrimination and improve people’s lives. A recent study included transgender women, which is an important step forward.

Medical researchers around the country have been working hard to provide effective treatments for HIV and AIDS and to prevent the disease from spreading. The scientific community is currently abuzz with news that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) with an antiretroviral medication may be effective to prevent HIV infection for people who are at highest risk for infection. The study that focused on this issue was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It focused on gay men, bisexual men, and transgender women who have sex with men. The study was conducted in six countries.  All study participants were educated on how they can reduce their risk of HIV infection. Half of the participants were given the PrEP treatment while the other half were given a placebo. The medication used was TDF/FTC, whose brand name is Truvada.

To say that the results of the study are heartening is an understatement. The average reduction of HIV infection risk of the study participants who participated in PrEP was 43.8%. However, the results show that the risk of HIV infection dramatically decreased for participants who faithfully adhered to treatment. The participants who took the medication at least half of the time reduced their HIV infection risk by 50.2%. The participants who took the medication every day or almost every day reduced their risk by 72.8%. The survey results clearly show that this medication, when taken consistently in combination with other preventive strategies, can play a key role in preventing HIV infection.

This study is an important step in the right direction. It shows that PrEP may be used as an effective prevention tool against HIV infection for transgender people, combined with traditional prevention methods like counseling and condom distribution. This is especially true for individuals who cannot use condoms consistently. However, we are still in the beginning stages of research. In the meantime, adequate federal and state funding for proven HIV/AIDS treatments, as well as for continuing research, is critical for transgender people, and for the country as a whole.

If you want to learn more, please refer to:

World AIDS Day- What Does It Mean for Transgender People?

November 30, 2010

Red ribbonWorld AIDS Day is fast approaching on December 1st. It is an internationally recognized day to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, reduce stigma and discrimination, and commemorate those who have died from the disease.

NCTE is very concerned about the high HIV infection rates among transgender individuals.  It is well-established that transgender people in the U.S. disproportionately suffer from HIV infection compared to other  populations. NCTE and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force’s national survey recently found that transgender people are over four times more likely than the general population to be infected with HIV. Furthermore, transgender people of color experience HIV infection at exponential rates compared to that of the general population. For example, African-American transgender people in our survey reported an HIV infection rate of 24.9% while the general population has a HIV infection rate of 2.64%.

People who are diagnosed with HIV experience stigma and discrimination due to a variety of factors. Many people continue to be uneducated about HIV/AIDS and remain fearful that they may be infected by casual contact. Lambda Legal issued a report on HIV stigma and discrimination which found that 34% of individuals had false beliefs about HIV transmission, including mistakenly believing that transmission can occur through sharing a drinking glass, touching a toilet seat, or swimming in the same pool. The same report noted that disclosure of one’s HIV status can lead to wrongful termination from a job, wrongful eviction from one’s residence, denial of services, or assault.

On World AIDS Day, one of the commitments we can make is to review the information HIV/AIDS and make sure we each do our part to eliminate the disease

What is HIV/AIDS?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus which weakens your immune system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection. You can be infected with HIV and not have symptoms for a long time. During this period, HIV can attack your T-cells or CD4 cells which are key components of your immune system. Over time, HIV can destroy so many T-cells that your body cannot defend itself from infections and diseases. When this occurs, HIV infection can lead to AIDS.

How does HIV/AIDS spread to other people?

HIV is spread when certain human body fluids that are infected with HIV enter one’s body. The following body fluids are known to contain high levels of HIV:  blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, breast milk, vaginal fluids, and rectal mucous. Other body fluids and waste (including feces, nasal fluid, saliva, sweat, tears, urine, or vomit) do not have enough HIV to infect people. The only way that they would lead to HIV infection is if they contain blood and one has considerable and direct contact with them.

How can we prevent HIV infection?

56,000 people in the U.S. become infected with HIV every year. We do not live in a perfect world, so it is sometimes difficult to practice what we already know to protect ourselves against HIV/AIDS.  One way to decrease your risk of HIV infection is to engage in safe sex. “Safe sex” includes knowing your own and your partner’s HIV status and using condoms correctly and consistently. If you believe that you may have been exposed to HIV after unprotected sex, you can take medications to lower your risk of HIV infection (called post-exposure prophylaxis or PEP).  PEP is effective if taken within 36 hours of exposure, so you should go to your local hospital’s emergency room, urgent care clinic, or HIV clinic as soon as possible to access PEP.

How can HIV/AIDS be treated?

HIV/AIDS can be treated through antiretroviral therapy (ART). Many people can lead longer and fulfilling lives due to ART because it reduces the amount of HIV one’s body and allow one’s immune system to remain healthy.

How can I be tested for HIV?

Since people infected with HIV generally do not exhibit any symptoms until they get sick from opportunistic infections, everyone should be tested for HIV on a regular basis. In NCTE and the Task Force’s survey, almost 10% of the respondents indicated that they did not know their HIV status. Usually, HIV tests require a blood sample but some tests use urine or saliva instead. Some tests take a few days for results, but rapid HIV tests can provide results in approximately 20 minutes.

There are many places where you can take a HIV test. To find out where you can do so, please:

  • Visit and enter your zip code for HIV test sites, including sites that offer HIV tests for free.
  • Call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636)
  • Text your ZIP code to KNOWIT (566947) and you will receive a list of the nearest testing locations.
  • Contact your state or local health department.

Here are some organizations that are dedicated to serving LGBT individuals and provide HIV tests:

  • Los Angeles, CA

LA Gay & Lesbian Center: or 323-993-7500

  • Washington DC

The DC Center: or 202-682-2245

Whitman-Walker Clinic: or 202-939-7690

  • Chicago, IL

Howard Brown Health Center: or 773-388-1600

  • Boston, MA

Fenway Health: or 617-927-6202

  • New York, NY

Callen-Lorde Community Health Center: or 212-271-7200

The LGBT Community Center: or 212-620-7310

  • Seattle, WA

Gay City Health Project: or 206-860-6969

For more information on HIV/AIDS, please refer to the following references:

  • Lambda Legal. “HIV Stigma and Discrimination in the U.S.: An Evidence-Based Report.” Nov. 2010

President Obama Unveils New National HIV/AIDS Strategy

July 14, 2010

President Obama announced that he is launching the first national strategy to combat HIV/AIDS. NCTE commends the administration for dealing with a disease that disproportionately affects lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and ethnic/racial minorities. The White House’s vision for its national strategy is,

The United States will become a place where new HIV infections are rare and when they do occur, every person, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination. (emphasis added)

The National HIV/AIDS Strategy recognizes that transgender individuals are at high risk for HIV infection and that efforts addressing our community have been minimal at best. There is an emphasis on working with community based organizations for HIV prevention and improving access to care and treatment for transgender individuals. Additionally, the National HIV/AIDS Strategy recognized that transgender individuals need culturally competent care. NCTE is pleased to note that the strategy mandated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study which HIV prevention and treatment methods work best with transgender people and publish factsheets by 2011.

The National HIV/AIDS Strategy is focused on reducing new HIV infections, increasing access to care and improving health outcomes for people living with HIV, reducing HIV-related disparities. Specific goals include:

  • Decrease the rate of new infections by 25% within 5 years.
  • Increase patients’ access to care so that 85% of those infected with HIV will receive care within 3 months of being diagnosed, instead with 65% who do so now.
  • Increase the rate of people who know that they are infected to 90%, instead of the 79% who do know now.

NCTE congratulates the Obama Administration for being dedicated to preventing HIV/AIDS and improving access to culturally competent care and treatment to those who are living with HIV/AIDS.

FDA to Review Its Blood Ban for Men Who Have Sex With Men

May 26, 2010

On May 20, 2010, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it would start reviewing its policies on blood donation to consider ending its permanent ban against blood donation from men who have sex with men (MSM). Many transgender people are turned away from donating blood because they are often viewed as being MSM.  The Department of Health and Human Services will host public hearings on the FDA’s blood ban from June 10 and 11th at the Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville, Maryland.

NCTE supports overturning the blood ban because it unfairly targets LGBT people. MSM are explicitly and permanently banned from donating blood, no matter what their HIV status or actual risk level. The FDA does not have such an onerous rule for other people who engage in high-risk behavior; for example, the FDA requires heterosexuals who have sex with someone who is known to be HIV positive to wait only one year before donating blood.

Additionally, the FDA’s blood ban affects transgender individuals even though they are not mentioned in the FDA’s policies. For example, an uninformed intake person at a blood center may decide to deem a transgender woman as male. If she had sex with a man even once, then she can be permanently banned from donating blood.  A transgender man can also be deemed to be an MSM if he had sex with a man.

The FDA instituted its policies in 1983 during a time when HIV/AIDS was poorly understood. And yet, 27 years later, the FDA is still using the same outdated and discriminatory policies to regulate the blood supply despite scientific research that has advanced far enough that a ban is unnecessary. For example, after donation, blood can now be tested for a variety of diseases including hepatitis B and C, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. The FDA’s permanent ban against any man who has sex with another man from donating blood is scientifically unjustified.

The American Medical Association, the American Red Cross, and America’s Blood Centers all support overturning the FDA’s blood ban. Many of these organizations support requiring MSM to wait for a one-year or five-year period before donating blood, similar to the one year waiting period for heterosexuals who engage in unprotected sex.

The committee in charge of reviewing the FDA’s blood ban will be tasked with reviewing

  1. Societal, scientific and economic factors for making the policy change,
  2. Whether available scientific research supports making the policy change or whether there must be more studies on this issue,
  3. Whether monitoring tools or surveillance activities should be established before making the policy change, and
  4. Whether there should additional safety measures.

NCTE supports overturning the FDA’s blood ban because it is scientifically unjustified and stigmatizes LGBT individuals. The FDA should revise its policies to reflect current scientific knowledge while safeguarding the United States’ blood supply

HIV Travel Ban to be Lifted

October 30, 2009

President Obama Announces New Rules Today

For more than a year, advocates and government officials have been working to end the 22-year-old travel ban on people with HIV entering the United States. Today, President Obama finished the process, announcing the new rules as he signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009, noting, “If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it. And that’s why on Monday my administration will publish a final rule that eliminates the travel ban effective just after the New Year.”

In 1987, the US Public Health Service first issued the ban. That same year, Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) added HIV to a list of travel restrictions, approved unanimously by Congress. In 1993, Congress added the HIV ban to immigration laws, further strengthening the policy. Repeal efforts throughout the years failed until 2008 when Congress voted to end the ban and then-President Bush signed the measure.

“Transgender people, along with other vulnerable populations, are particularly at risk for HIV and AIDS. We applaud this long-overdue change in federal policy,” remarked Mara Keisling, the Executive Director for the National Center for Transgender Equality. “Our government policies should be grounded in science, not in myth. We know that travelers with HIV are not a threat to our country and there is no reason to bar them from entry.”

For more information about transgender people and HIV/AIDS, visit the Center for Excellence for Transgender HIV Prevention.


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