Transgender people to be given a voice

Little is known about how many of South Africa’s transgender women have HIV‚ what experiences of stigmatisation they have and what their lives are like – and even how many there are.

The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) on Wednesday launched its first study of transgender people to hear their stories.

South Africa has the highest number of people living with HIV in the world at 7-million.

But the HSRC says it doesn’t know what the prevalence of HIV is among transgender people despite the fact that globally they are at very high risk of HIV infection.

Communication campaigns on HIV treatment and prevention may not be reaching and influencing transgender women‚ as their experiences of marginalisation and of general life are not well known. The point of the study is to have proper evidence with which to shape policy and make it easier to include this group in government’s efforts to reduce and treat HIV.

The Human Science Research Council’s Professor Leickness Simbayi who will lead the study said: “Transgender women have often been neglected in South Africa’s response to HIV. This study is therefore an important first step in ensuring that transgender women have a voice – both in terms of how HIV affects transgender women‚ but equally about what can be done to help transgender women to protect themselves.”

The study aims to recruit 300 transgender people in each of the metropolitan areas of Cape Town‚ Johannesburg and Buffalo City in the Eastern Cape.

The 900 people will be interviewed‚ listened to and given HIV tests‚ TB and other diagnostic tests.

Simbayi said: “Through this study‚ we hope to contribute towards a deeper understanding of how HIV is affecting the transgender women population in South Africa. Globally‚ transgender women have been shown to be at high risk for HIV infection.”

Leigh Ann van der Merwe from Social Health Empowerment (S.H.E.) Feminist Collective in East London said: “The transgender community is very pleased to be part of‚ and support‚ this study because we know it gives us a voice. For too long our reality as transgender women has been invisible to society and we are thrilled that we will now be seen‚ and heard‚ through the work of the HSRC funded by the [US] Centres for Disease Control.”

by Katharine Child
Source – Times Live