Transgender in Africa: Invisible, inaccessible, or ignored?

Published: September 10, 2012

Abstract

Transgender people are an important key population for HIV risk globally, and several studies have found HIV prevalence rates in transgender populations that are significantly higher than those among other key populations such as men who have sex with men (MSM). There is a lack of research on transgender populations in Africa, and at present, there is almost no data available on HIV prevalence and risk among transgender people on the continent. It is possible that the invisibility of transgender people in epidemiological data from Africa is related to the criminalisation of same-sex behaviour in many countries and the subsequent fear of negative repercussions from participation in research. Alternatively, transgender people may be being overlooked in research due to confusion among researchers about how to ask questions about gender identity. It is also possible that transgender populations have simply been ignored in research to date. Without research on transgender-specific HIV prevalence and risk, it is very difficult to know what interventions and services are needed for this risk population. Therefore, it is important that researchers, governments, Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and donor organisations begin to pay explicit attention to transgender people in their HIV-related research and programmes in Africa.

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