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.”
Women, Black, and transgender people face a common struggle removing the stigma of HIV/AIDS. While each population has its own set of challenges, the more positive recognition society as a whole gives these heroines, the easier hard conversations of prevention and detection become.
“There is lack of permission by overall society for trans people to survive, have self esteem, and to exhibit positive behavior,” said Spencer. In reviewing each of the challenges outlined by the CDC, there is a direct link to each item suggested by Ms. Spencer. The celebration of the lives of those brave women we have lost should serve as positive testaments to the paths they forged which can hopefully create safe spaces for those who are here today. When those conversations can be had truthfully and with care, removing those stigmas can lead to what the U.S. is calling an “AIDS-Free Generation”.
This post is written by Ace Portis, development manager, National for Transgender Equality.