From TN Department of Health: National Transgender HIV Testing Day

We are pleased to bring you this information through a partnership with the Tennessee Department of Health:

April 18th is National Transgender HIV Testing Day, and all across the state there are opportunities for transgender people to learn their HIV status, get connected to care, and work with their peers to prevent HIV in their communities. 

Transgender people face significant barriers to health care, especially in the South. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, these barriers include lack of health insurance, lack of access to providers knowledgeable about transgender health, and discrimination. One in three transgender people have avoided or delayed accessing sexual health care out of fear of discrimination. These fears are not ungrounded. Over half of transgender people engaged in healthcare have had to teach a medical provider about providing appropriate care, and approximately 20% of transgender people have been refused medical care by a provider because they were transgender. 

Nearly one million Americans identify as transgender.  Transgender women are at particularly high risk for contracting HIV. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 14% of American transgender women have HIV. That percentage is greater for African American transgender women (44%) and Latinx transgender women (26%). While similar data for transgender men does not exist, transgender men who are gay, bisexual, and same-gender loving are at risk for HIV just as cisgender gay, bisexual, and same-gender loving men are---but they are much less likely to be properly screened for HIV by health care providers. Transgender non-binary people who have sex without a prevention method and/or share needles are also at risk for HIV. Nearly half of all transgender Americans who are living with HIV live in a Southern state. 

Tennessee Department of Health understands that these healthcare barriers will persist unless addressed. Work with health departments, health care providers, and non-profit partners to improve HIV prevention services for transgender people is ongoing. The Tennessee Transgender Task Force, a body comprised of transgender advocates knowledgeable about the HIV prevention and care network, helps shape and inform statewide HIV initiatives. The Cultural Awareness Survey Program assesses health department sexual health services, providing feedback to key public health leadership about how healthcare for transgender patients can be improved. 

Through the Tennessee Department of Health, HIV testing, PrEP, condoms, and HIV treatment are available to all residents, and in celebration of National Transgender HIV Testing Day we raise awareness of these resources. 

Rapid HIV testing is available all over Tennessee, where a simple finger prick can yield an accurate, same-day result. Many places in Tennessee use a double-rapid testing process, which means that a person can test positive for HIV and start on the path to getting into care on the same day. Click here for a statewide list of rapid HIV testing locations. 

Transgender people, regardless of how they identify, can use both PrEP and condoms to safely protect themselves from contracting HIV. Tennessee has a robust condom distribution network, searchable online through Free Condoms TN. Getting PrEP in Tennessee can start online as well, through Get PrEP TN. Anyone can use Get PrEP TN to learn more about PrEP, contact a PrEP navigator, and find a medical provider to help them start the process. For transgender people wary of discrimination in health care settings, the PrEP navigator can attend the first PrEP doctor’s appointment with a client and help leverage resources through patient assistance programs to pay for PrEP. 

Transgender people in Tennessee who want more access to sexual health care still face significant barriers, but also have access to more resources than ever before. Here is a list of regional resources that transgender people can use to improve their sexual health:

Update: April 18th is an opportunity to highlight how HIV affects transgender communities, but this April there is a health concern overshadowing all others. Due to state and local restrictions related to COVID-19, not all of the services detailed above are currently available. If you are worried about COVID-19 and looking for accurate sources of up-to-date information, here is a list of national and regional resources:

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