Why It's Important
Disparities in HIV infection
Transgender women have HIV prevalence rates as high as or higher than other risk groups. One meta-analysis (a big summary study of all available research literature) by Herbst and colleagues (2008) found HIV prevalence was greater than 25% among trans women – that means more than 1 in 4 of our trans sisters.
Unique HIV prevention needs of young trans women
According to the Center for Disease Control’s conceptual framework for classifying HIV behavioral interventions, there are no theoretically-driven Tier I or Tier II level HIV prevention programs for transgender communities. Trans women tend to be included in programming and interventions for men who have sex with men. This can feel very invalidating for our communities. Although many programs have been developed to prevent HIV infection among young people, none of these programs have been developed and empirically tested among young trans women.
Trans-specific HIV prevention programs are struggling to catch up to other HIV prevention interventions. There is a need for comprehensive trans-specific HIV prevention programs that are evidence-based (i.e., have been shown to work) and that meet our unique circumstances as young trans women.
The LifeSkills study aims to fill this scientific gap by testing the efficacy of a unique group-based prevention program, delivered by trans women for trans women, to decrease risk for HIV infection transmission and re-infection in our communities.
We are trying to distinguish our communities and incorporate the unique factors we face and experience relating to HIV risk, and which make our HIV prevention needs different from, for example, those of men who have sex with men. We also want to build upon our strengths and avoid a deficits-based approach. It is time to be empowered.