Few interventions have been developed for transgender women, and most HIV prevention interventions that do exist have not been studied (i.e., to understand how effective they are). Baltimore and DC are in need of data they can use to build on HIV services that are currently available and to develop new ones that work for the community. This is where our study came into play. With the support of the transgender community, we planned to determine how vulnerable these communities are to HIV and if existing HIV prevention and care options are being used. We also wanted to hear more from TWOC about their unmet needs (HIV-related or otherwise) and ask how they feel about HIV prevention interventions like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
The STROBE Study had four goals:
Use community-based methods to engage 60 TWOC and 10 key informants from agencies that serve TWOC in formative, qualitative research to better understand (a) appropriate community engagement approaches, (b) appropriate sampling and recruitment methods, and (c) specifics of HIV risk and vulnerability among TWOC in Baltimore.
To describe the structural, social, and individual HIV risks among TWOC in the Baltimore Washington, DC metro areas.
To estimate the prevalence of HIV among TWOC in the Baltimore Washington, DC metro areas.
To assess knowledge and acceptability of potential HIV prevention interventions among TWOC in the Baltimore Washington, DC metro areas.
Why do this research?
National data indicate that transgender people experience significant stigma and discrimination that can result in increased vulnerability to poor health. In Baltimore and DC, and in many other cities, transgender women of color live at the intersection of multiple communities heavily impacted by HIV. BUT research that distinguishes their unique experiences with HIV prevention and care services remains understudied. Data is needed to develop and implement interventions that protect the health and well being of the trans community as a whole, and especially TWOC. The first step is to build a better understanding of the issues we are dealing with.
Recently, the experience of transgender people has been front and center in the media. Visibility is an important step toward social and political acceptance for trans communities. Conducting research about the lives of transgender women of color is an opportunity to diversify the national and global conversations on transgender rights, happening right now.