Does Being Trans, Gender-Non-Conforming, or Non-Binary Put You at Risk For HIV?
PROUDWST ME Peer Navigator, Kira Lingala discusses the importance of PrEP to the TGNCNB Community during PrEP Aware Week (October 25-31, 2020)
by Kira Lingala
For the TGNCNB community, finding safety can be difficult. We face threats on the street, at work, and from institutions like the police.
We can also be wary of the medical establishment. Because of this, it can be daunting to find a gender-affirming provider or walk into a doctor’s office for an HIV or STI test. But our community is susceptible to HIV, whether you identify as non-binary, a trans man, a trans woman, or somewhere else on the gender spectrum.
PrEP is a way to prevent HIV that has been available for nearly a decade, but many in our community still don’t know about this life-saving medication.
The benefits of PrEP for the TGNCNB community are obvious when we look at the numbers. Trans women are 10x more likely to be living with HIV than the rest of the population, and this number is even higher for trans women of color. While trans men and non-binary folx have a lower rate of HIV than trans women, the choices someone makes about their sexual partners and how they have sex can still put them at risk for contracting HIV.
The important thing to know when considering getting on PrEP is that it’s not about who you are, it’s about what you do. PrEP is short for “pre-exposure prophylaxis.” It is a pill, usually taken once a day, that can prevent HIV before you are exposed to it. Anyone who is sexually active should consider PrEP, because, when taken as directed, it can reduce the risk of HIV by 99%. However, there are some behaviors you may engage in that make getting on PrEP more important:
- Not using condoms with partners of unknown HIV status
- Having multiple sexual partners regularly
- Having sex under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- You or your partner(s) recently had gonorrhea or syphilis
- Having sex without condoms with a partner who has HIV
- Having sex for money, food, housing, and/or drugs
- Injecting drugs, medications, or fillers without cleaning needles or while sharing needless
None of these behaviors are morally wrong and no one should be shamed for having sex with who and how they want to. However, it’s important to know the risk level of certain behaviors, so you can make an informed decision about PrEP.
Often, members of the LGBTQ+ community are told that our identities put us at risk for HIV and STIs, but the reality is not that simple. Stigmatizing men who have sex with men or trans women for their higher rates of HIV and STIs is harmful and ineffective at helping us form a safer, healthier community. Folx in our community don’t face threats to our health because of something wrong with us, but because of a healthcare system that doesn’t always welcome us. That means it’s on doctors and providers to treat us with dignity and make sure their spaces are safe for TGNCNB folx.
If you’re curious about PrEP, you’ll find more information about providers and payment on this page. If you’re a member of the TGNCNB community, who needs help accessing PrEP or with other health-related issues, from mental health care to HIV testing, please contact PROUDWST Me. PROUDWST Me is a program of The LOFT, run by trans folx of color, dedicated to improving the health and wellness of the TGNCNB community. You can find more info about PROUDWST Me here.