By Phillipa Tucker, Senior Researcher
Governments worldwide continue to neglect the needs of transgender people with regards to HIV and AIDS. The early results of the AIDS Accountability International Survey on Transgender Issues indicate that almost no countries collect or analyse health data on transgender people thus making them more vulnerable.
Dr. Per Strand, Research Director at AIDS Accountability International’s Cape Town office says:
“This is not an unexpected finding, but if governments don’t correctly monitor and evaluate their epidemics they will make mistakes in their policy, implementation and impact and that is very much what we are seeing is happening for transgender people.”Senior Researcher Phillipa Tucker explains:
“The lack of focus on the issues being faced by transgender people leaves them vulnerable, not only to HIV infection, but also to other issues such as health risks in operative surgery, side effects and interaction of drugs, relationship vulnerability, income generation, stigma and discrimination and many other aspects that place them at greater risk in the face of HIV.”
“Transgender people still suffer terrible hate crimes, prejudice and violence all over the world even worse in the African continent as a result of ignorance and intolerance. On the 20th of November we remember our lost souls who were murdered horrifically simply because someone wanted to silence Transgender persons”, says Tebogo, Outreach Officer, Gender DynamiX, a human rights organization promoting freedom of expression of gender identity and advocating for the rights of Transgender South Africa.
AIDS Accountability International (AAI) is an independent non-profit organization that was established to increase accountability and inspire bolder leadership in the response to the AIDS epidemic. The research unit’s hope is that by conducting this unique, year-long study, which systematically collects data on transgender people and their related health issues, they will be able to provide evidence based research to human rights activists around the world so that they will be better able to hold leaders accountable and so demand change from their governments. The research examines key HIV statistics, the legal environment, the health care environment as well as the role and position of civil society organizations working on transgender issues.
Transgender Day of Remembrance, on 20th November every year, is a day to remember all transgender people who have been murdered because of the stigma and discrimination that still exists against these people, yet governments around the globe still do not provide sufficient health care for these individuals and seldom provide any prevention, care, treatment or support to this group of people. Governments need to lead their citizens on these human rights issues.
Transgender issues around the globe
In Australia only one transgender organisation exists to provide education and support to transgender people throughout the entire country. The Gender Centre works closely with the police and they have “GLOS” (gay and lesbians officers) who work from the main police stations and who are the contact officers for transgender people in case of their being victims of a crime.
In Burundi civil society organisations working with transgender people say that because of discrimination most transgender people hide themselves and their sexuality and gender identity from public because of fear of reprisal. An activist working in Burundi whose name cannot be released says: “Whoever is caught in these phenomena is punished by the law”.
In Poland transwomen have problems accessing their hormone treatment, since pharmacies do not want to sell female hormones to persons having male data in their identity cards even though a person does have the necessary documentation from a doctor.
South Africa is one of the few countries that incorporate transgender issues in their health policy and there is a team of medical experts that monitor transgender issues, however there has been no incorporation of transgender people onto the National AIDS Programme. Similarly health staff is not trained to deal with transgender issues.
In Sweden transgender people are still required to undergo a lengthy psychiatric evaluation, sterilization, forced divorce and a diagnosis of Transsexualism before identity documents in their acquired gender will be issued by government.
In Viet Nam transgender people struggle to access their rights to equal property, ownership and inheritance rights under formal law placing them in vulnerable positions financially and socially.
In Zambia the penal code makes it unclear whether being transgender is an illegal act or not as cross dressing can be constituted as the criminal act of impersonating the opposite sex.
AAI calls on governments to take action to “Know Your Epidemic”, and begin showing leadership on transgender issues. Decriminalisation of same-sex practices and other antiquated laws is a necessary first step, followed by the incorporation of transgender people in policy-making and programme implementation. There are currently 80 countries in the world with homophobic laws, many of which stems from laws imposed by colonising rulers in Africa, the Caribbean and in South-East Asia.
AIDS Accountability International (AAI) is an independent non-profit organization established to increase accountability and inspire bolder leadership in the response to the AIDS epidemic. AAI does this by rating and comparing the degree to which public and private actors are fulfilling the commitments they have made to respond to the epidemic. Its assessments are presented in the form of Scorecards that identify gaps between stated commitments by governments and key actors, and their actual performance and the purpose is to strengthen
Accountability is the ability to influence good performance of governments in the face of the HIV epidemic. It is a tool that community leaders, human rights activists, parliamentarians, international aid agencies and even bureaucrats can use to get their governments to create policy, roll out implementation and monitor impact of HIV and AIDS in a country to the best of their ability.
The Scorecard on Sexual Diversity is a project which analyses health data from UNAIDS as well as from AAI’s own surveys in order to highlight problems with regards to HIV and AIDS that are being faced by people who are lesbian, gay, transgender, intersex and/or queer (LGBTIQ). More data and advocacy tools will be released in 2011. Consult our website http://aidsaccountability.org or join the mailing list to get more information by contacting Phillipa Tucker. The survey will continue into 2011 and civil society organisations working on HIV should contact Phillipa Tucker at:firstname.lastname@example.org to participate.
A note for journalists:
- The word transgender is an adjective that describes people whose gender identity and/or gender expression is different from the sex they were given on their birth certificate. Transgender people may identify themselves as male-to-female (MTF) or female-to-male (FTM). Some transgender people choose to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically but many do not require it or cannot afford it.
- Intersex people are not transgender but rather their sex is ambiguous as there are many hormonal, anatomical or genetic variations that cause make a person’s sex ambiguous (e.g. Klinefelter Syndrome).
- Always refer to the person by the term, name and pronoun they prefer whenever possible.
- For further information please see the GLAAD Media Reference Guide http://www.glaad.org/referenceguide