HIV-Positive Transgender Women Going Without Medications, Basic Needs

Portrait of a doctor writing a prescription

Portrait of a doctor writing a prescription

A recent article in LGBT Health revealed transgender women living with HIV are less likely to adhere to anti-HIV medication regimens and achieve viral suppression rates, and are more likely than non-transgender men to be deprived of basic needs.

For the study, researchers from the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) accessed 2009 to 2011 data from the Medical Monitoring Project (MMP), an initiative which aims to measure the amount of HIV-infected adults as well as comparing non-transgender and transgender individuals’ demographics, behavior, health habits, and met needs.

Compared to HIV-positive people who were not transgender, transgenders with HIV had a lower incomes, had a higher homelessness rate, and were less likely to have health insurance —  an aspect researchers believe explains why more non-transgender men adhere to antiretroviral therapy (ART) (78.4% vs. 87.4%) and achieve viral suppression (50.8% vs. 61.4%).

“Higher percentages of transgender women needed supportive services. No differences were observed in receipt of most of supportive services, but transgender women had higher unmet needs than non-transgender men for basic services such as food and housing,” the authors wrote.

Based on the correlation between unmet needs and access and continued use of medications in HIV-positive transgender women, the investigators asserted more research is needed to explore inequalities between non-transgender and transgender individuals.

“The fact that, compared to other groups in treatment, transwomen had less ART adherence and viral load suppression but more unmet needs for supportive services requires follow-up studies to inform remedial actions,” LGBT Health Editor-in-Chief William Byne, MD, PhD said in a news release.