NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY)– December 1 is World Aids Day and despite HIV cases decreasing since the peak of the epidemic in the 1980s, it is still a global health crisis and is hitting the transgender community pretty hard.
The rate of new HIV cases among the transgender community was 20 times higher than the national average in 2019 according to a CDC survey in seven major cities. The report released last April said four in ten transgender women surveyed had HIV. The numbers were even higher for black trans women.
Dexter Davis, the Transgender Resource Coordinator at the LGBT Life Center in Norfolk, and a transgender man tells 10 On Your Side in Hampton Roads, it’s not just transwomen with higher rates of infection.
“This year I know we saw an increase in HIV Prevalence actually even in transmen in the area which very rarely do you see that,” said Davis.
The Center’s Community Health Navigator Jasmine Johnson is a transgender woman and
explained why HIV is hitting their community so hard.
“When I was transitioning, the people I hung around told me this is the only this is the thing we have to do in order to survive. You have to put yourself out there you have to sell your body you have to do this,” Johnson said.
No one talked about protection she said, like condoms or PrEP, which is the medication that protects against HIV infection.
Davis told us, “I have people all the time who are trans who ask, ‘Can I take PrEP?” Davis said. “It’s almost a stigma of being a gay man’s medication.”
Others wonder if the medicine will interact with their hormones or if they can afford it.
“You don’t have to have insurance. The best part is we actually have grants and programs here that will fund it,” Davis told WAVY.
They also have nPEP, another medication you can take within 72 hours of unprotected sex to prevent HIV infection.
If you’re afraid to come in and get tested, Johnson said, they’ll drive to you. “The whole thing is creating a safe space for you to get the things that you need.”
Johnson says that she wishes these options were available when she transitioned two decades ago. “That’s what makes me wake up everyday- knowing I can help somebody control this.”
If you would like more information on free and confidential HIV testing and services with the LGBT Life Center, click here.