Prevention in Focus

Spring 2017 

Research Update: HIV health and healthcare findings from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey

By Logan Broeckaert

The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey1 gathered information from 27,715 transgender people around the United States. The survey’s findings were released in December 2016. The report provides a detailed look at the experiences of transgender people across a wide range of categories, such as education, employment, family life, health, housing, and interactions with the criminal justice system. In the chapter on health, the report provides information on HIV testing and care among transpeople. 

Transpeople more likely to have ever been tested for HIV compared to the general population

The survey results showed that 55% of respondents reported ever testing for HIV, compared to 34%2 of the general adult population. The majority (86%) of transpeople who reported never testing for HIV said the reason they had never tested was because it was unlikely they had been exposed. Most (45%) reported they were tested by their primary healthcare provider; 26% were tested at a clinic, and 11% at an HIV testing site. Other testing sites included emergency departments, jails, substance use treatment centres, and home testing.

Transpeople were four-times more likely to report living with HIV compared to the general population

Overall, 1.4% of respondents reported they were living with HIV, higher than the national average (0.3%).3 Transwomen were most likely to report living with HIV (3.4%) compared to 0.3% of transmen and 0.4% of non-binary people.

However, the survey showed that some communities of transpeople are more impacted by HIV than others. For example, 19% percent of black transwomen reported living with HIV. This is 13-times higher than the overall sample. Five percent of Indigenous transwomen, and 4.4% of Latina transwomen also reported living with HIV.

Transpeople report being engaged in HIV care

According to the report:

  • 87% of respondents with HIV self-reported they had seen an HIV healthcare provider in the last six months
  • 82% of respondents with HIV self-reported they had had viral load and/or CD4 count testing in the last six months
  • 81% of respondents with HIV self-reported they were taking HIV treatment
  • 64% of respondents with HIV self-reported they took their HIV treatment as prescribed all the time

Transpeople continue to experience significant barriers to healthcare in general

Significant barriers to healthcare continue to impact the health and well-being of transpeople. One-third (33%) of people who had sought healthcare in the last year reported at least one negative experience related to their gender identity, such as being refused treatment, verbally harassed, physically or sexually assaulted, or having to teach the provider about transgender people to get appropriate care. One-quarter (23%) did not see a doctor when they needed it because they feared being mistreated. One-third (33%) did not seek healthcare when they needed it because they could not afford it.

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About the author(s)

Logan Broeckaert holds a Master’s degree in History and is currently a researcher/writer at CATIE. Before joining CATIE, Logan worked on provincial and national research and knowledge exchange projects for the Canadian AIDS Society and the Ontario Public Health Association.