Get the Facts about Transgender People & HIV Testing

by Meghan Olson

Monday, April 18 is National Transgender HIV Testing Day. To mark the day, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRCF) has provided resources and guides on topics relating to National Transgender HIV Testing Day to combat stigma and provide information.

Frequently Asked Questions About HIV & HIV Testing

What is HIV? What is AIDS?

  • HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks your body’s immune system, which is crucial to fighting off infections and diseases. Specifically, HIV invades important cells in your body, uses those cells to make more copies of itself, and then destroys them.

  • If left untreated, HIV may lead to an AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) diagnosis. People who receive an AIDS diagnosis generally have badly damaged immune systems, which puts them at greater risk for more serious medical conditions. Fortunately, there are now more ways than ever to prevent and treat HIV.

How do people get HIV?

  • HIV is transmitted through the following bodily fluids: blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, vaginal fluid, rectal fluid, and breast milk.

  • Most commonly, HIV is transmitted through condomless anal or vaginal sex or through injection drug use. You cannot get HIV from kissing, hugging or other types of non-sexual physical contact.

Where can I get tested for HIV?

How often should I get tested?

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of their routine health care.

  • Some people, including those that are at a higher risk for receiving an HIV diagnosis, including gay and bisexual men that have sex with other men, transgender women and those who use injectable drugs, should consider getting tested more often, as HIV is especially prevalent in these communities.

  • People who are pregnant should get tested in their first trimester.

Transgender People and HIV: What We Know

Despite several years of research on HIV/AIDS and the populations it affects, we know very little about transgender people and HIV. In the vast majority of studies, transgender people have only been counted as their sex assigned at birth, which not only discounts their identities, but leaves them relatively invisible to public health officials and advocacy organizations working toward prevention, treatment, and HIV-related health care.

Critical Issues relating to Transgender People and HIV:

  • Visibility and inclusiveness

  • Prevention education

  • Barriers to care

  • Violence

  • Poverty and unemployment

HRC’s Guide to Getting It Right: Reporting about HIV

Tip 1: Avoid conflating HIV and AIDS. These two are related but should not be used interchangeably.

Tip 2: Recognize that while HIV may be more prevalent among LGBTQ people - specifically young, gay and bisexual men and transgender women - anyone can contract or transmit HIV. Be careful of implying otherwise.

Tip 3: Understand the importance of and difference between PrEP and PEP. Avoid perpetuating false narratives about either strategy.

Tip 4: Broaden coverage to include structural factors that often increase the spread and stigma of HIV, such as poverty, racism, and HIV criminalization.

Tip 5: Include the voices of people living with HIV in your reporting, but remember people living with HIV are more than their diagnosis.

Tip 6: Avoid using terms that are not only outdated and inaccurate but may also stigmatize people living with and affected by HIV.

Get Tested

There are hundreds of LGBTQ-inclusive health care providers across the country. Build a generation free from HIV by finding one near you and get access to prevention, testing and treatment.