High emphasis on health rights of transgender (Hijra) community in Bangladesh to minimize HIV/AIDS

Published: July 20, 2010

High emphasis on health rights of transgender (Hijra) community in Bangladesh to minimize HIV/AIDS

S. Islam

HIV/AIDS and STD Alliance Bangladesh, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Issues: A Hijra is usually considered a member of, “the third gender”, neither man nor woman. Most are physically male or intersex, but some are physically female. Hijras face extreme discrimination in the society in every aspect, especially on health as they do not fall in any gender category of the society. Most of the cases it is found that, most Hijras are engaged in sex work. A survey conducted among the hijra community shows that, in Dhaka 98.9% of participants had engaged in selling sexual services only 3.4% using condoms. This shows the high vulnerability of the Hijra group towards HIV/AIDS.
Description: It is difficult for health care providers and researchers to gain access to the hijra community as they live in hiding. The reasons are, categories generally used in health care and HIV/AIDS circles for describing high risk groups, such as MSM, do not capture the complex gender identity of Hijra. This affects a large majority at high risk population to disclose their status and receive treatment.
Furthermore, hijras are discouraged form meeting in public places, expressing their opinions, which limits their participation in seeking of public health services. This means that Hijra sex workers do not only run high risk of acquiring HIV, but also of transmitting the virus to their clients.
Lessons learned: A strong health care rights policy for Hijra community is needed immediately to minimize spread of HIV/AIDS in Bangladesh.
Reasearch is needed to assess whether the current health and HIV/AIDS policies adequately address the needs of the Hijra community. This will help the promotion of their health and human rights as well as to take preventive measures for the spread of HIV/AIDS among these groups.

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