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Transgender sex workers are among the most marginalized and vulnerable populations in China, according to a recent report by an NGO that focuses on health and human rights in China and Southeast Asia.
Deep-rooted social stigma and discrimination leave many transgender women who were born male ostracised from friends, families and in their native neighbourhood. This forces them into sex work and leaves them highly vulnerable to HIV and abuse from police, according to the report by Asia Catalyst.
Several transgender sex workers told Asia Catalyst that prejudice against them were so high that they were afraid of even undertaking common everyday tasks such as using public transport or leaving their home to go shopping.
"Imagine being laughed at when using a public toilet, being evicted from your home or, even worse, dangerously self-medicating hormone use because no doctor will see you," Zheng Huang, head of AIDS organization Shanghai Xinsheng, told Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Sex work is not illegal in China nor is being transgender but the country does lack non-discrimination laws or even professional medical resources for transitioning.
There is also a lack of HIV services for transgender people, leaving them highly vulnerable, the Asia Catalyst report said. Studies show that transgender sex workers are 49 times more likely to be infected with HIV than other adults, and nine times more vulnerable than female sex workers.
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