Society has a long way to go to better support transgender young people and provide them with tailored sex education, NBC News reports. Doing so could help reduce the disproportionately high rates of HIV in this population, according to a recent study.

Publishing their findings in the journal Pediatrics, researchers from the Fenway Institute, the University of Chicago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Boston College conducted online focus groups with 30 transgender youth to better understand their HIV risk and experiences with HIV prevention services.

The study’s lead author was Holly Fontenot, PhD, RN, a professor at the Boston College School of Nursing.

The average age of the participants was 19 years old. Twenty-seven percent were trans males, 17% were trans females and 27% used at least one other term to define their gender identity.

The study identified four major themes. First, the young people reported barriers to self-advocacy when it came to sexual decision-making. They also expressed concerns about their safety and trepidation about forming romantic or sexual relationships. The youths described a considerable need for better support of their gender identity as well as sex education tailored to their needs. Lastly, they yearned for affirmative and culturally competent experiences and interactions at home, at school and during visits to health care providers.

The study authors concluded that their findings “should inform intervention development to improve support and/or services, including the following: (1) increasing provider knowledge and skills to provide gender-affirming care, (2) addressing barriers to services (e.g., accessibility and affordability as well as stigma and discrimination), and (3) expanding sexual health education to be inclusive of all gender identities, sexual orientations, and definitions of sex and sexual activity.”

To read the NBC article, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.