Conference Coverage

Transgender health survey provides data on nearly 28,000 individuals



– Respondents to the 2015 United States Transgender Survey (USTS) reported living with HIV at nearly five times the rate in the U.S. population. Reported HIV rates were even higher among transgender women, especially transgender women of color, according to Sandy James, JD, PhD, the lead author of the USTS and its former research director (2014-2017).

Cover image of the 2015 USTS Survey © 2018 National Center for Transgender Equality

In addition, the survey results detailed high rates of physical and mental health issues, difficulties accessing health care, and negative experiences when receiving medical care.

“There [had been] a dearth of data available about trans people,” said Dr. James, and hard data are required to make any meaningful changes to health care systems, but “now we have numbers.”

The nationwide USTS was the largest survey ever to document the experiences of transgender adults in the United States, comprising 27,715 respondents from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and U.S. military bases overseas.

The USTS provided a comprehensive examination of a wide range of life outcomes, including those related to health, employment, income, and education. This survey of transgender adults (18 years of age and older) was anonymous, was available in both English and Spanish, and was conducted in the summer of 2015 by the National Center for Transgender Equality.

The document details the stresses and dangers that transgender people face in their daily lives, including attempted suicide rates higher than the norm (40% having attempted suicide in their lifetime, nearly nine times the 4.6% rate in the U.S. population). Nearly 1 in 10 respondents were physically attacked in the past year because of being transgender, and nearly half (47%) of respondents reported having been sexually assaulted during their lifetime.

Respondents reported living with HIV (1.4%) at nearly five times the rate in the U.S. population (0.3%), with HIV rates higher among transgender women (3.4%), especially transgender women of color. Nearly one in five black transgender women were living with HIV, and Native American Indian and Latina women also reported higher rates of infection: 4.6% and 4.4%, respectively.

A total of 25% of respondents experienced a problem in the past year with their insurance related to being transgender, such as being denied coverage for care related to gender transition or being denied coverage for routine care because they were transgender.

In terms of the health care environment, 33% of those who saw a health care provider in the past year reported having at least one negative experience related to being transgender, with higher rates for people of color and people with disabilities. This included being refused treatment, being verbally harassed or physically or sexually assaulted, or having to teach the provider about transgender people to get appropriate care, according to the survey.

In addition, 23% of respondents reported that they did not see a doctor when they needed to in the past year because of fear of being mistreated as a transgender person, and 33% did not see a doctor when needed because they could not afford care.

“I urge you to go and find the survey and look at all of the results, it is really important,” Dr. James stated. He stressed the fact that the breakout reports, including the report on black respondents, the Latino/a response report (in both English and Spanish), and the other minority and individual state reports, can all provide a more detailed view of what is going on in the transgender community than anything previously available.

Dr. James reported having no disclosures.

SOURCE: James S. Sexually Transmitted Diseases 2018. 45 [Supplement 2] Session 5D. S289.

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