Recent studies have shown that transgender people are at high risk for HIV. Few studies, however, have directly compared the HIV risks and sexual health of transgender persons with that of other sexual minority populations. This study used baseline data of intervention studies targeting transgender persons, men who have sex with men, and women who have sex with women and men to compare their HIV risk behavior and sexual health. No significant differences were found between transgender persons and nontransgender men or women in consistent condom use or attitudes toward condom use. Transgender persons were less likely to have multiple partners and more likely to be monogamous than men who have sex with men; no differences were found between transgender persons and the women in this respect. When combining data on condom use, monogamy, and multiple partners, transgender persons did not differ from either nontransgender group in their overall risk for HIV. Transgender persons were less likely than the men or the women to have been tested for HIV. With regard to HIV prevalence, 17% of the men compared to only one transgender person and none of the women reported being HIV-positive. Transgender persons were also less likely than men who have sex with men to use drugs; no differences were found in the use of alcohol. However, with regard to mental health, transgender persons were more likely than the men to have experienced depression and more likely than men or women to have considered or attempted suicide. Finally, transgender persons reported the lowest levels of support from family and peers. Thus, in our sample, transgender persons appear to be at lower risk for HIV but at higher risk for mental health concerns than men who have sex with men. Remarkably few differences were found between transgender persons and women who have sex with women and men-a finding which might reflect the impact of social stigma on sexual health and have implications for the design of future HIV/STI prevention efforts.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors thank Anne Marie Weber-Main, PhD, for her critical review and editorial suggestions on earlier drafts of this manuscript. This study was made possible through a grant from the Minnesota Department of Health, MDH/A23777.
- Bisexual women
- HIV risk
- Sexual health