The conversation we’re not having

Trans* people and HIV in the UK (by Aedan Wolton)

“I am not a ‘high-risk’ person; I am a member of a community that is put at high risk.” – Marcela Romero, Coordinator of REDLACTRANS, a Latin American and Caribbean transgender network.

trans ribbonIt’s fair to say that trans* people are hot cultural property right now, especially considering today’s announcement that the charity Stonewall is now LGB ‘and T’ inclusive. However, there is a conversation missing from trans* communities in the UK – We are entirely silent about HIV.

There are no official figures about how many transgender people may be living with HIV in Britain. However, on a global scale, trans* women are estimated to be 49% more likely to have the infection. Not only are these figures shocking, they perpetuate HIV stigma from within our own communities. Trans* people are amongst the most marginalized members of our society; how can we encourage an already discriminated against group to discuss the burden of HIV? How can we respond to an epidemic we cannot see?

The first ever piece of national research to explore the lived experience of people with HIV, that includes trans* identities in a meaningful way, has launched this month, over at Supported by Public Health England “The UK Stigma Index 2015 aims to identify whether people living with HIV in the UK experience HIV-related stigma and discrimination, and to describe how such stigma affects their daily lives.”

As a community, we cannot tackle a problem we don’t understand, nor address issues we cannot bring ourselves to discuss. We are stronger together, and empowered communities are better equipped to fight the spread of HIV. In the UK, the Stigma Index is a milestone, but it has to be the first of many.


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