The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) will be conducting the first South African study into the prevalence of HIV among transgender women.

This study will be conducted in Cape Town, Johannesburg and the Buffalo City Metro in the Eastern Cape beginning later this month.

The study was initiated and supported by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with funding from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and will be supported by various South African and international academic and civil society partners.

“Through this study, we hope to contribute towards a deeper understanding of how HIV is affecting the transgender women population in South Africa. Globally, transgender women have been shown to be at high risk for HIV infection,” said HSRC’s Deputy CEO: Research, Professor Leickness Simbayi.

“Transgender women have often been neglected in South Africa’s response to HIV. This study is therefore an important first step in ensuring that transgender women have a voice – both in terms of how HIV affects transgender women but equally about what can be done to help transgender women to protect themselves. Our public health campaigns must become more responsive if we are to impact decisively on combatting HIV and AIDS,” continued Professor Simbayi.

Global statistics show that transgender women are nearly 49 times more likely to be infected with HIV than other adults of reproductive age.

Despite this, there is currently very little information in South Africa about the specific HIV vulnerabilities of transgender women and HIV prevalence amongst transgender women also remains undocumented.

“Significant resources are invested globally in fighting HIV and AIDS. However, the effectiveness of public health programmes will be determined by their relevance to key populations,” said CDC SA’s Key Populations Lead, Helen Savva.

“It is for this reason that the CDC South Africa is very proud to have initiated this important study with transgender women.  I am confident that the results of this study will influence our understanding and therefore, our responses, to the public health needs of transgender women in South Africa and globally,” continued Savva.

The study goes towards South Africa’s commitment to the UNAIDS global target to ensure that by 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.

South Africa has committed itself to reducing new infections of HIV by 60% from 270,000 in 2016 to less than 100,000 by 2022.

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