In recent years, African American women have been infected with AIDS and HIV at a much higher rate at “61% of new diagnoses” (Jolly 2017), with African American transgender women being in the lead for potential risk. Failure to provide this disenfranchised group of women with access to proper care further amplifies the historical notion that Black and Brown bodies are expendable. Historically, transgender women have been marginalized in many social aspects including health and welfare. HIV/AIDS testing is regularly available, yet many feel the stigma of finding out their status. However, there is also a lack of research done on transgender women and their health statuses. Issues such as “sex assigned at birth” and “gender identity currently” can skew results and leave out individuals from the health services they desire. The CDC also reports that in 2013, “the percentage of transgender people who received a new HIV diagnosis was more than 3 times the natural average” (cdc.gov) Due to discriminatory standards concerning socioeconomic and racial class, African American transgender women have been further disenfranchised. African American transgender women are the most at risk for a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS, making up over 50% of new diagnoses due to factors such as discrimination in health, "internalized transphobia" (Israel and Tarver 1997), racism and even discriminatory employment practices. Sex work, homelessness, and violence can all lead to higher chances of contracting the virus. For many African American transgender women, the only way to live to take up sex work. Contracting the HIV/AIDS virus further stigmatizes them and leaves African American transgender women even more vulnerable. The loss of family, friends, and faith (for some) can be overwhelming and can sometimes lead to drastic and life-ending decisions. Although Gender-Identity support services have become more accessible over time, constant legislative changes that affect marginalized people directly tamper with the existence of these services such as removal of funding necessary concerning research HIV/AIDS amongst the transgender community due to repeal on federal programs stunts their growth. With the overwhelming fear of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, many transgender women who get their medication to combat the virus may not be able to afford the drug any longer. State-wise and locally, individuals are seeing closed free clinics in their area, meaning they have to travel to find care. This lack of support and services is even more limited for African American transgender women. In the past, African American transgender women would have to seek support from services specializing in African American men despite transgender care differing greatly from cisgender care. While the research is ever growing (vaccines and other scientific studies), what is needed right now is help and advocacy. African American transgender women are finally able to find a voice among the masses. Groups (i.e. TransWomen of Color Collective and Black Trans Advocacy ) were specifically founded to help African American and other women of color that identify as transgender and their needs. This exhibit is to showcase some ways in which the HIV/AIDS pandemic is affecting African-American transgender women and their response.
Tamara Jackson, Gia Jelatis, Eduardo Olea, Juan Pozo