To Combat HIV, LGBT Americans Need To Wrestle With Some Hard Truths

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a survey reporting that 4 in 10 males identifying as female who live in large cities are HIV-positive. Described as one of the most comprehensive surveys of the “transgender population,” approximately 1,600 Americans polled from seven major cities were asked a series of questions about their sex lives and experiences with HIV.

The CDC states, “These findings demonstrate the pressing need for scaled-up HIV prevention and care strategies for transgender women. CDC is actively working to address disparities through strategic program funding and partnerships throughout the nation.”

Commenting on the data, Demetre Daskalakis, director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention argues, “These data provide a clear and compelling picture of the severe toll of HIV among transgender women and the social and economic factors — including systemic racism and transphobia — that are contributing to this unacceptable burden.” Daskalakis continued, “Reducing HIV in these communities will require that public health and other providers of social and prevention services design innovative and comprehensive status-neutral solutions to overcome barriers to whole person prevention and care.”

The data itself tells a remarkably different story than the one presented by the CDC, however, almost entirely debunking several of these claims. While the CDC’s commentary highlights popular narratives such as transphobia, poverty, and a lack of access to medical services, the vast majority of men identifying as women do not self-report these issues.

Between 30 and 39 percent of transgender males have graduated high school or attended college. Nearly 60 percent reported stable housing and nearly 90 percent reported having health insurance, with 96 percent having seen a doctor in the last year.

Ninety percent of those who were HIV-positive reported taking HIV medications and 89 percent had seen an HIV specialist in the last six months. Participants living with HIV also indicated they had access to transgender-related medical intervention as well with 78 percent undergoing hormone treatment.

The data shows that the vast majority of men identifying as women who wanted to transition and manage their HIV with medication had the ability and opportunity to do so. This was true regardless of race, with nearly 90 percent of black and Hispanic participants reporting access to medical intervention and 100 percent of white participants reporting the same.

Education and awareness also did not appear to be an issue, as nearly 70 percent had engaged in HIV-related interventions and nearly 90 percent had access to free condoms and HIV-prevention medication known as PrEP. More than 85 percent across all categories had been tested for HIV in the last year. Indeed, there don’t appear to be any disparities in education, access to education, awareness, or access to prevention methods in this population.

Despite the abundant resources available and used to prevent the spread of HIV, the survey provided insight into why the infection rate was so high. To begin with, around 36 percent of respondents self-reported engaging in high-risk sexual activities without using a condom and 34 percent reported engaging in prostitution. Around 60 percent engaged in substance abuse, which increases the risk of HIV infection, according to the CDC.

Equally as discouraging, despite access to and widespread use of transgender medical intervention with surgery and hormones, overall, 18 percent had seriously considered suicide in the last year and 4 percent had attempted self-harm. As for living in violent environments, 26 percent of 18 to 24-year-old participants reported abuse from their intimate partners. This supports another recent survey by the UCLA Williams Institute that indicated 43 per 1,000 transgender people were victimized by their intimate partner.

Despite the CDC narrative suggesting a lack of resources, awareness, and education about HIV testing and treatment, it seems transgender males are more than sufficiently knowledgeable on the risk factors, and a prominent segment simply chooses to engage in them anyway. This significantly challenges the overall LGBT narrative of HIV as being a disease of poverty and oppression in the United States, one that requires further government funding to address through more and more programs and outreach efforts.

The data tells a different story, and it’s an important one to pay attention to. While the discussion is not around blame, there is a significant component of personal and social responsibility at play here that needs to be addressed.

As has been true since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the largest contributing factor to the spread of the disease has been leftist cultural influences that encourage reckless sexual and drug use practices as normal and accepted, particularly among LGBT Americans. The refusal to acknowledge this reality is perpetuated by leftist social policy, such as California lowering the criminal consequences for intentionally exposing others to HIV.

The truth is, LGBT and transgender Americans don’t as a population need more education and awareness about HIV, nor do we require more government-funding services for outreach, free prevention materials, and even more options for access to medical services at low or no cost . As the data show, these are in abundant supply and are widely used by LGBT Americans.

No, what this segment of the American population needs is an uncomfortable conversation about the consequences of encouraging and even celebrating prostitution, reckless sexual practices, and recreational drug use. Perpetuating victim-messaging and highlighting meaningless disparities will do nothing but allow the underlying problems influencing the spread of HIV amongst LGBT Americans to continue.

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