The coastal African country of Ghana has emerged as a force in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS across the continent. Ghana leads the fight against HIV/AIDS by raising awareness and seeking to disrupt cultural forces that have historically kept infection rates high.

UNAIDS appointed Ghana as the chair for its Programme Coordinating Board (PCB) for the year, with Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu chairing both PCB meetings and Ghanaian President Nana Addot Dankwa Akufo-Addo addressing the June meeting. Ghanaian First Lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo has also been named as a Premier Ambassador for HIV Advocacy by the group.

“We will certainly work hard to justify the confidence reposed in us. We are committed to working closely with UNAIDS to achieve our collective goal of making our world AIDS-free by 2030,” Agyeman-Manu said on the UNAIDS official website.

Ghana is home to approximately 270,000 people currently living with HIV and has made great strides over recent years in addressing the epidemic. It reduced the number of HIV infections by 57 percent since 2000 and nearly doubled the amount of HIV testing women have received since 2008. The previous lack of screening for the disease is an assumed factor in higher infection rates, especially among adolescents.

UNAIDS deputy executive director Jan Beagle recently visited the country in anticipation of the announcement to meet with the government and citizens of Ghana. “As Chair, Ghana brings experience and energy to the Programme Coordinating Board. We are looking forward to Ghana’s leadership to drive forward the implementation of the UNAIDS 2016-2021 Strategy and to help us make the end of AIDS a reality,” Beagle stated.

During her visit, Beagle attended a town hall-style meeting with Ghanaian women personally affected by HIV/AIDS. The rate of infections among women is particularly high in the country, almost double the rate of men, and infected women are stigmatized. Infected widows face even harsher conditions as they are often stripped of their belongings or homes due to local customs and laws.

UNAIDS is also working with women’s rights organization the Mama Zimbi Foundation (MZF) its Widows Alliance Network (WANE) network. This organizational collaboration is key to how Ghana leads the fight against HIV/AIDS.

“We need to empower women, and make sure men are also fully part of the discussion– we need to work together for a better future,” MZF founder Akumaa Mama Zimbi appealed during the meeting. The MZF’s latest project seeks to create a permanent, stable facility to provide job training and health education for daughters of displaced widows.

Ghana leads the fight against HIV/AIDS by recognizing that the disease is not just a virus, but a complex health issue overlapping socioeconomic and cultural issues. The country’s efforts may be the best chance the world has at eliminating the disease by 2030.

Dan Krajewski

Photo: Flickr

The global AIDS epidemic continues to threaten women’s health. There has been significant worldwide progress in combating this outbreak, as evidenced by a U.N. report showing a 33 percent global reduction in newly diagnosed HIV infections from 2001 to 2012. However, development has been disproportionate for women, especially in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa.

As the Joint U.N. Programme on HIV and AIDS reports, adolescent girls accounted for 64 percent of new HIV infections among youth globally in 2013. In addition, sub-Saharan Africa houses 80 percent of young women with HIV worldwide. Those aged 15 to 24 are nearly twice as likely to contract AIDS compared to their male counterparts.

Such statistics have a number of causes. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV if they have experienced physical or sexual abuse, especially through relationships that involve extramarital sex or little-to-no contraceptive use. Social norms, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, also impose barriers, as men have more dominance over women in relationships.

Lack of education, specifically sex education, also plays a role in women’s disproportionate diagnosis of HIV. A report by the U.N. demonstrated that out of 32 countries, “Women who had some level of secondary education were five times more likely than non-literate women to have knowledge of HIV.”

The probable leading cause of the AIDS epidemic affecting women comes from a lack of health services. Those who have insufficient access to HIV and reproductive health care treatments and support, are less likely to monitor their health and thereby reduce infection. This is the case in many African regions. Laws also introduce obstacles; for example, in 2014, nine countries reported regulations that inhibit girls from obtaining HIV-related services.

Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe, confirms: “This epidemic, unfortunately, remains an epidemic of women.” Fortunately, however, a number of organizations have made motions to counter the problem, beginning with UNAIDS itself. In 2015, it introduced a global initiative of reducing HIV infections to about half a million per year by 2020. This plan involves reducing new infections among women by a factor of 75 percent.

As the Human Rights Watch notes, such can be accomplished through legal reform, the implementation of health awareness programs, mandatory education measures and assistance from international NGOs. In order to combat the AIDS epidemic and its effect on women, serious action must continue worldwide.

Genevieve T. DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr

The Young Heroes Foundation, founded in 2006, aims to provide financial support for the provision of basic necessities for orphans in Swaziland in addition to providing HIV testing and care programs. The nation is home to the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS globally, illustrated by a staggering number of 70,000 orphans and 15,000 households led by children as reported by Aid for Africa.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), rates of HIV among pregnant woman have reached 39.2 percent and approximately 17,000 children contract the disease every year. It is also reported that more than 120,000 Swazi children who are under 18 have lost at least one parent to AIDS, while more than 60,000 have experienced the loss of both parents to the disease.

Young Heroes has now reached more than 1,000 children in Swaziland by stabilizing households of orphans and vulnerable children, consequently improving the rates of school attendance among those receiving aid. Events such as the Swazi Cycle also help to raise monetary support for Swazi orphans by supporting the Young Heroes Foundation, where American cyclists embark on bike routes from border-to-border across the nation. In 2010 the cycling journey raised more than $100,000 for children in dire need of support in Swaziland.

In addition, citizens of Swaziland are affected by high rates of malnutrition, food insecurity, poverty and extremely unpredictable weather patterns, as cited by the World Food Programme.

Other programs such as the Centre for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services (CHAPS) have developed voluntary public health programs such as the Male Circumcision Strategic and Operational Plan for HIV Prevention, projecting to avoid an estimated 31,000 new incidents of HIV by 2028. The initiative utilizes tools of education through mentoring, sports programs and public health outreach administered by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

– Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment to Fight Hunger in Asia
According to UNICEF, “In 2015, more than half of all stunted children under five lived in Asia.” Further, the organization notes that the wasting rate in Southern Asia is close to being “a critical public health emergency.”

In light of these concerning statistics, research has illuminated how an interdisciplinary female-focused approach to fighting hunger in Asia is the key to success for both child nutrition and the overall health of the community.

Gender inequality is more prevalent in South Asia than other parts of the continent, with a gender inequality index measuring .0536. This is on a scale from 0 being completely equal to 1 being not equal — the ratings in Singapore and The Republic of Korea are 0.088 and 0.125 respectively. Data suggests that improvements in women’s equality may hold the key to reducing South Asia’s current child undernutrition rate of 36 percent.

Groundbreaking research carried out in 1998 by the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C., showed that gender inequality plays a large role in malnutrition.

While analyzing global data, the authors Smith and Haddad showed that improvement in women’s status and improvement in women’s enrollment in secondary education was responsible for over half of the reductions in child malnutrition.

Other major factors, such as food availability and improvements in a health environment, contributed to only 26 percent and 19 percent of the malnutrition reductions, respectively.

Further publications such as the World Bank Global Monitoring Report of 2007 highlight how creating diverse opportunities for women can directly combat hunger in Asia. Education benefits child nutrition by increasing access to information for expectant and current mothers and child malnutrition decreases when women have more control of the household’s resources.

Nutrition is not only important for child growth but is also an investment in preventative health. The danger of not supporting female-focused initiatives is potent, due to the foundational importance of nutrition on well-being.

Over 5 million individuals are currently living with HIV in Asia, according to UNAIDS, with 19,000 new infections in children in 2015 alone. In malnourished patients, HIV quickly progresses toward AIDS due to the immune system’s lack of essential nutrients.

Other opportunistic infections, such as tuberculosis, which is present in its “latent” non-active form in one-third of the world’s population, can then thrive in the absence of a functional immune system and can threaten entire communities.

However, focused efforts are being made to improve nutrition with an interdisciplinary approach. CARE International, a U.K. based company, sponsored the Shouhardo Project in Bangladesh to fight child malnutrition through women’s empowerment.

By implementing community initiatives to confront early marriage, prevent violence against women, give more power to women in business transactions and have more political power in the local sphere, outcomes changed.

Before the project began, less than 25 percent of women reported being involved in decisions to buy or sell family assets, or use savings. At the end of the study period, almost 50 percent of women were included in such decisions. As a result, the data collected showed a 30 percent drop in child stunting.

More initiatives in Asia are focusing on women’s role in child well-being, such as the Every Woman Every Child movement, which recently launched a campaign to use mobile phones to educate women on nutrition for their children in India.

India’s Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) has partnered with the Food and Agriculture organization of the U.N. to boost economic opportunities for women in rural areas, with the direct goal of fighting nutrition through such avenues.

These programs are evidence for why female leadership is so important, especially in an area where gender inequality is prominent. As such initiatives develop and are supported, communities will see unprecedented gains in the fight against hunger.

Patrick Tolosky

Photo: Flickr

Sex Education in Guatemala
Guatemala has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in Latin America. By age 20, 54 to 68 percent of indigenous or uneducated women have married or become pregnant.

This number is raised by a high rate of sexual abuse that boys and girls suffer: 10,000 cases are reported every year. One of the many reasons these statistics are so alarmingly high is a lack of comprehensive sex education in Guatemala. In 2012, only two percent of schools had effective programs; but fortunately, many advocates have worked to counteract these dismal statistics over the past few years.

Comprehensive sex education is incredibly beneficial to children of all genders. The National Survey of Family Growth discovered that pregnancy rates for 15 to 19 year olds are 50 percent lower for teens who receive comprehensive sex education than for teenagers who received less education.

Guatemalan children need to be taught about contraceptives, STIs, HIV, pregnancy and especially consent. Programs should emphasize the goals of improved gender equality as well as increasing male involvement in family planning. These alterations would allow teenagers to have more control over their reproductive health as well as counteract the dangerous culture of violence and rape.

Fortunately, new legislation has paved the way for improvement. The 2010 Preventing through Education Act calls for comprehensive sex education in Guatemala and increases teenage access to sexual health services.

Sex educator Ana Lucía Ramazzini insists that “sex education cannot be successful in Guatemala without being taught from a feminist viewpoint that addresses consent, assault and the power dynamics and social inequalities between men and women.” Two other laws have been similarly positive — hospitals are now required to report pregnancies for girls under 14, and the marrying age with parental consent has been raised from 14 to 16.

Three years after the Prevention through Education Act, a program with gender equality views was incorporated into nine regions. After the 2010 law passed in Guatemala, the rate of teen pregnancy decreased from 90 births per 1000 women ages 15-19 to 81 births in 2014. While the statistic is not overtly dramatic, the steady decline does indeed bode well for the future.

Ten Guatemalan organizations and a handful of international organizations continue to transform sex education from bill to reality. UNAIDS works to educate people about HIV and decrease the stigma surrounding the condition for the 65,000 people in Guatemala who live with the disease and require treatment. Two Guatemalan organizations in particular, Asociacion Pro-Bienestar de la Familia de Guatemala (APROFAM) and Incide Joven, have done exceptional work in this field.

APROFAM is a family planning organization that serves Guatemala with 27 permanent clinics, five mobile facilities and a large number of community distributors. Their clinics and workshops provide education for both men and women about the effectiveness of contraceptives and family planning services. Using media from comic strips and television shows, they educate the public on both sexual health as well as issues of consent and abuse.

Incide Joven is a similar organization, but its uniqueness stems from the fact that it is entirely youth run. Like APROFAM, Incide Joven is dedicated to making sex education available for teenagers. Their advocacy was very successful in creating the valuable Gender and Cultural Diversity office as part of the Ministry of Education to oversee new sex education. APROFAM and Incide Joben share sex educator Ana Ramazzini’s ideology by encouraging both genders to take an active role in family planning.

With such high rates of abuse and teenage pregnancy, sex education in Guatemala is a tough job; fortunately though, children are growing more aware of their rights and the risks of young sex. A 10-year-old listing off information about HIV at a UNAIDS event said that, “[children] are very young for sex. Ah! And that our body is only ours and no one can touch it.”

The emphasis on consent in sex education in Guatemala not only builds a better informed public, it also is a large step in the right direction for female empowerment and youth rights.

Jeanette Burke

Photo: Bustle

Doctors Without BordersNonprofit medical aid conglomerate Doctors Without Borders, or Medecins Sans Frontieres, requests increased access to treatment for Western and Central African countries. Although not the highest-risk demographic, less than one third of the afflicted receive life-saving medicines.

Eastern and Southern Africa hold half of the world’s HIV-infected population. As a result, intervention, prevention and treatment overwhelmingly pour into this region of the world, leaving others without equitable aid. Dr. Cecilia Ferreyra, HIV adviser for Doctors Without Borders, reports that in the last five years, “the number of people on life-saving HIV treatment worldwide doubled.” Yet, 4.5 million people in Western and Central Africa do not receive treatment.

The plea from the organization came a day before an important U.N. meeting discussing the prevention of AIDS. On June 10, a U.N. press release indicated the member states would implement a bold course of action to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. With a goal like this, areas of concern can now be reached with renewed vigor.

It seems Doctors Without Borders has been effective in lobbying the UN for increased attention to regions with a lower HIV prevalence. In the press release, UNAIDS stated, among its other goals, that it would set “an action agenda for getting to 90-90-90,” referring to the percentage of people who know their HIV-positive status, receive antiretroviral treatment and reach viral suppression. Its goals also promise UNAIDS will be “leaving no one behind” in the quest to completely eliminate AIDS.

The U.S. specifically has committed to introducing a $100 million Key Populations Investment Fund that is intended to bridge the gap between PEPFAR and those who don’t normally receive financial help. It aims to assist people facing discrimination, such as sex workers, gay men, intravenous drug users, transgender people and prisoners. This could help regions like Western and Central Africa in which stigmatization prevents those with HIV from receiving proper treatment.

Despite the region-specific challenges faced by Western and Central Africa—which (besides stigma) includes a shortage of well-trained medical staff, service shortcomings and high fees—the spread of HIV/AIDS is certainly slowing. The goal of ending AIDS by 2030 encompasses the entire globe, not just the areas in dire need.

Connor Borden

Photo: Flickr

fast-track approach to ending AIDS
From June 8 to 10, the UN General Assembly held the High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS in New York City to draft a new Political Declaration on Ending AIDS and to introduce the Fast-Track approach to ending AIDS.

The Fast-Track approach to ending AIDS plans to increase and front-load investments in fighting the AIDS epidemic. This would be done in combination with scaled up coverage of HIV services in order to reduce the rate of new infections and AIDS-related deaths.

Greater investment in human rights, advocacy, civil society and community-based services are also essential to the Fast-Track approach, according to meeting documents.

The ultimate goals of the Fast-Track approach to ending AIDs are to ensure that fewer than 500,000 people are newly infected with HIV, to ensure that fewer than 500,000 people die from AIDS-related illnesses and to eliminate HIV-related discrimination.

UNAIDS, the branch of the UN working towards “zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths” as part of the Sustainable Development Goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030, said in a press statement that it wanted to hear from both individuals living with HIV and NGOs helping people on the ground during the meeting.

One such group is AIDS Outreach, an NGO located in Montana. Executive Director Bob Cruz said in an interview that most of his time is spent testing for HIV. His next biggest challenge is ensuring that those who test positive for HIV find an insurance package they can afford.

“Treatment is out there, but to get [people living with HIV] on it we need to know what insurance options are available,” Cruz said. “There are many, but they don’t know it.” According to Cruz, treatment for HIV can cost $3,000 to $4,000 per month.

In Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s report, “On the fast track to ending the AIDS epidemic,” he noted that he has spoken with individuals about their difficulties obtaining the retroviral medicine they need.

Although past successful policies have extended access to retroviral treatment, the UN General Assembly’s zero draft political declaration states that people living with HIV “in low- and middle-income countries still remain without treatment.”

The declaration goes on to say that “a substantial proportion of people on antiretroviral therapy face social and structural barriers to good health, including lack of social protection, care and support and as a result struggle to adhere to their treatment.”

Until a recent funding cut, AIDS Outreach had offered support groups for people living with HIV and for men who have sex with men, a key population affected by HIV. Before the cut, Cruz said the groups gave people a sign of visible support. Their purpose was “to offer someone a space to talk about what is on their mind,” free of judgment.

If Cruz had more resources, he would restart AIDS Outreach’s support groups and put more time into educating people in schools and prisons. He would also want to ensure that people knew more about recent advancements in treatment, helping to reduce the fear and stigma of living with HIV.

According to Cruz, new treatments such as PrEP, a drug that people at very high risk for HIV take daily to lower their chances of getting infected, allow people to live without the constant fear of their immune system becoming compromised.

At the High Meeting, the zero draft political statement said that health needs must be addressed in a more holistic manner. The UN will not only work to ensure the health and wellbeing of people living with HIV, but also “health security, universal health coverage and health system strengthening and preparedness.”

As part of the greater investment in HIV prevention and treatment, and to provide more holistic treatment, key areas are in need of more resources.

According to meeting documents, community mobilization needs to rise to three percent of total HIV investment by 2020—three times the current amount. Investment in social enablers, such as advocacy, law and policy reform and stigma reduction, needs to rise to eight percent of total investment by that time.

In 2014, there was $19 billion available that had been invested in the prevention and treatment of HIV. Meeting documents stated that this needs to increase to $26 billion available annually by 2020.

It is hoped that this increased investment, along with better service coverage and a more efficient use of resources, will lead to the success of the fast-track approach to ending AIDS, resulting in declining annual resource needs after 2020.

Anastazia Vanisko

Photo: Flickr Partnered With Faith-based Organizations to Strengthen HIV Response
UNAIDS and United States President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) collaborated with faith-based organizations (FBOs) in East Africa to launch a two-year initiative to strengthen their capacity to respond to HIV.

On Sep. 15, 2015, in the seventieth session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, it was revealed that the five focus areas of the U.S. $4 million program are: collecting, analyzing and disseminating data; challenging stigma and discrimination; increasing demand for HIV services and retaining people in care; improving HIV-related service provision; and strengthening leadership and advocacy.

This new program is the result of suggestions made by faith leaders at a deliberation in April 2015. The conference hosted over 50 faith leaders from Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.

The faith leaders called for more access to data, heightened accountability and better collaboration between FBOs and international partners.

The report, Building on Firm Foundations, which was released by the United Nations General Assembly, UNAIDS, PEPFAR and Emory University last month, highlights the impact of faith-based responses to epidemics in the four East African countries.

FBOs provided a majority of health services and sustained collaborative communities which maintain a disease-free environment for future generations.

PEPFAR’s partnership with FBOs has allowed them to reach 7.7 million people with lifesaving antiretroviral treatment, and treat 14.2 million pregnant women, thus decreasing mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

The recently launched PEPFAR 3.0 – Controlling the Epidemic: Delivering on the Promise of an AIDS-free Generation set the ambitious goal of 90-90-90.

By 2020, PEPFAR aims to achieve: 90 percent of people living with HIV who know their status, 90 percent of people who know their status and are receiving treatment and 90 percent of people on HIV treatment who have a suppressed viral load.

Thus it is important to strengthen partnerships with FBOs, as they are primary health providers for many communities, and allow UNAIDS and PEPFAR to expand their impact.

Luiz Loures, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, stated that “Faith-based organizations are essential partners, particularly in the areas of health service delivery and addressing stigma and discrimination. The partnership with faith-based organizations is critical to ending the AIDS epidemic and making sure that no one is left behind.”

Marie Helene Ngom

Sources: UNAIDS, PEPFAR Report
Photo: Flickr

UNAIDS Wants Trade Agreements to Uphold Commitments to Public Health
With the celebration of reaching 15 million people with HIV treatments and committing to end the AIDS epidemic, UNAIDS reminds countries that new trade agreements should not limit access to medicine.

At the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, governments reconfirmed their commitment to the use of existing flexibilities under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Specifically, governments reiterated their commitment to promoting access and trade of medicines and to ensure that intellectual property rights provisions in trade agreements do not undermine existing flexibilities.

TRIPS had to be reestablished with governments because as explained by UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé, “We are entering a crucial phase of the AIDS response which will decide whether we end the epidemic as a public health threat by 2030. Anything that undermines that response must be avoided.”

Trade negotiators from 12 countries are working to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). Under this text, there are reportedly provisions that go beyond what is required under the TRIPS Agreement.

With these “TRIPS-plus” provisions, generic competition could become more difficult. This would lead to higher drug prices. “Generic competition in the pharmaceutical industry, as well as the use of intellectual property flexibilities, have helped make prices for life-saving drugs much more affordable and enabled the unprecedented scale up of HIV treatment programmes.”

To achieve the elimination of AIDS by 2030, treatment drugs should not become more expensive. Instead, testing and medications should become more abundant and affordable to individuals.

The Fast Track Initiative not only wants to treat individuals who are infected with the virus, but prevent the further spread of infection. With the combination of treatment and spreading awareness, this is how AIDS will be eliminated.

With this initiative, 28 million HIV infections will be avoided between 2015 and 2030. Twenty-one million AIDS-related deaths with be avoided during that same time period. A main point in this initiative is that the billions of dollars spent on HIV treatment will be made available to be spent on other areas of health care.

Early testing and treatment of HIV will save a generation that may not even be aware that they are infected. With many African countries being plagued by the spread of HIV, informing people about treatment and options is one of the best ways to end AIDS.

If the global Aids response is to attain the 90-90-90 treatment target by 2020 — 90 percent of people living with HIV knowing their status, 90 percent of people who know their status on treatment, and 90 percent attaining viral suppression — HIV treatment must be accessible and scale up must be financially sustainable.

Kerri Szulak

Sources: UNAIDS 1, UNAIDS 2
Photo: Flickr

Transgender Population and HIV: Uncovering Problems
HIV is one of the few viruses to completely alter the landscape of the entire world as a whole. Not since great pandemics such as the Black Death has a sickness decimated families, communities and nations like HIV has.

HIV does not discriminate. The virus infects people from all walks of life: Muslims, Christians and Atheists; Blacks and whites; males and females; even the old and the young. Likewise, to combat HIV, the world needs to fund prevention programs just as indiscriminately.

From the misconceptions as an exclusively homosexual disease, to the unity the world has made in dealing with it, one thing is for certain—HIV is still present and must be eliminated.

HIV strategies have been largely successful in combating HIV and preventing AIDS from infecting people at staggering rates. According to UNAIDS, in 2014, 2 million new infections of HIV were recorded. This was down 35 percent from the year 2000, when that number was reported at 3.1 million new infections.

The overall HIV and AIDS mortality rates have also fallen over the course of 15 years. A total of 36.9 million people worldwide are living with HIV, and 1.2 million have died from AIDS. That is down from 2 million in 2005. Almost half the current HIV population is taking antiretroviral therapy (15 million). Currently, $20.2 billion is invested in the AIDS response, right on target of expected funding required at $22 billion.

There is, however, one group of minorities who are of a great deal of concern. They are transgender people. They represent a group of people with the most imbalance of all infected groups.

According to the most comprehensive WHO report on transgenders to date, transgender women have 49 times higher odds of HIV infection than the general population. Among sex workers, transgenders have nine times higher odds of contracting HIV compared to female sex workers.

The imbalance has many factors behind it. They are the largest under-served community when it comes to HIV prevention. This is due to marginalization, lack of access to proper treatment for many mental health related issues, grouped with homosexuals in prevention tactics and also being a target of violence.

Transgender individuals face many social issues in society. While some may be well off, many transgenders work low-paying jobs due to lack of equal opportunities of employment. Stigma and discrimination cause many to turn to drugs and sex work as a means of making money.

That lifestyle can lead to many health risks, including drug abuse, homelessness and the lack of access to adequate medicines. Many transgenders also face discrimination when they attempt to receive medical treatment from healthcare workers. It makes them more susceptible to infection.

Another problem is the lack of countries properly defining what gender a transgender person is. Many countries consider transgender sex the same as homosexual behavior. Anti-homosexual laws make transgenders fearful, hiding their infections for fear of death or incarceration. Some fear carrying condoms, as they may be used against them to confirm illicit behavior by law officials.

Inadequate training among healthcare workers to transgender-sensitive issues leads to misdiagnosis and mistrust.  The negative discrimination mentioned also decreases the quality of care they receive. Coupled with the general stigma, this creates a vicious cycle that is not helping with HIV prevention measures.

Transgenders are also vulnerable to higher degrees of violence and rape. There are no feasible studies to measure the amount of rapes and murders transgenders experience due to misreported gender identity. Rape victims may contract HIV and not report it due to fear of retaliation.

All these problems have led to poor results in HIV prevention amongst transgender populations in the world. The issue is crucial in the fight against AIDS because some transgender people may have sexual partners with both males and females, making more people susceptible to spreading HIV. The global effort to combat AIDS must include all types of people around the globe.

The next part of this article will demonstrate working solutions and how continuous funding will help reduce HIV.

Adnan Khalid

Sources: UNAIDS, World Health Organization
Photo: HIV Plus Mag