Despite their high overall risk of HIV, transgender individuals get tested for the virus only as often as cisgender heterosexuals, who are at much lower risk for the virus.
A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report analyzed data from the Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), which provided survey information drawn in 2014 and 2015 about HIV testing habits among individuals in 27 states and Guam. All told, the survey collected responses from 732 trans women, 451 trans men, 3,798 cisgender men who have sex with men (MSM) and 301,524 cisgender heterosexual men and women.
In 2015, the CDC produced a report that analyzed 9 million HIV tests funded by the agency, finding that trans women had the highest rate of positive test results, 2.7 percent, among any gender category. In the new report, the CDC noted that trans men are also at high risk for the virus.
After adjusting the BRFSS data to account for differences in demographic characteristics between the gender groups, the CDC investigators found that among trans women, the proportion reporting that they were ever tested for HIV was 35.6 percent and the proportion reporting that they were tested in the past year was 10 percent; among trans men those figures were a respective 31.6 percent and 10.2 percent. The corresponding rates for cisgender MSM were considerably higher, at a respective 61.8 percent and 21.6 percent. The testing rates for trans individuals were similar to those of cisgender heterosexuals, of whom 35.2 percent reported ever being tested and 8.6 percent reported being tested during the previous year.
“This finding suggests that transgender women and men might not be sufficiently reached by current HIV testing measures,” the report authors wrote. “Tailoring HIV testing activities to overcome the unique barriers faced by transgender women and men might increase rates of testing among these populations.”
The rates of ever having been tested were higher among Black trans women and men, at a respective 62.6 percent and 66.9 percent, compared with white trans women and men, who got tested at a rate of a respective 33.2 percent and 30.7 percent. Among trans women, the subgroup with the highest rate of ever having been tested, 68.5 percent, was among those who had ever been diagnosed with a depressive disorder.
To read the CDC report, click here.