Being LGBTI in Asia supports technical consultation on health and HIV interventions among trans people in China

4 July 2015

Beijing — In response to the efforts to mitigate HIV vulnerabilities of transgender people in China, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) and the National Center for AIDS (NCAIDS), in partnership with UNAIDS, convened a technical meeting on transgender health and HIV in China.

The objective of this consultative meeting was to discuss the HIV epidemic among transgender people in China, explore trans people’s vulnerabilities and identify the priorities to improve HIV interventions among this highly vulnerable group.

“In many countries, HIV prevalence among trans people has reached alarming levels; however, they have been invisible and neglected due to the lack of information and data related to trans people and HIV,” said Patrick Havernman, Deputy Country Director of UNDP in­ China.

Mr. Havernman emphasized that in most countries HIV interventions for trans people are inadequate. Where they exist, trans people face major barriers to accessing services, due to high levels of stigma and discrimination.

Supported by ‘Being LGBTI in Asia’, a regional initiative by UNDP, the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the meeting brought together participants from NCAIDS and China CDC along with regional and international experts with experience in designing and implementing trans-related HIV interventions, including the Asia Pacific Transgender Network (APTN), UNDP, UNAIDS, The Lancet and the India National AIDS Control Organization (NACO). In addition, over 40 transgender people participated, including trans people living with HIV, trans sex workers, community members and representatives of civil society organizations.

The consultation discussed gaps in current national HIV services, laws, policies, and practices in China. Participants also provided feasible recommendations for NCAIDS to establish foundations for more work and research in this area.

“Today, we are making history — the first meeting on trans issues in China. It is the beginning of our response to trans people,” said Dr. Wu Zunyou, the Director of NCAIDS in China. “We don’t have data on trans people, but it doesn’t mean there is no epidemic in this group. With more knowledge on trans culture and life style, we will have more capacity to help this group and work together to respond to social health and HIV.”

Two representatives from NACO shared the strategies that have been employed in India as part of their HIV response targeting transgender people. The representatives welcomed the opportunity for further knowledge sharing on designing intervention programmes and the potential for a study visit to demonstrate the operational facilities.

In response to this gesture, representatives from UNDP and UNAIDS conveyed that they would be willing to support any future co-operations between HIV prevention agencies in the world’s two largest nations.

Dr. Frits van Griensven, an international expert on Trans and HIV issues from Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Center (TRC-ARC) provided an overview of historical development of transgender people in the West. He highlighted the importance of history in empowering transgender communities and proposed actions, namely: government policy and planning that responds to transgender people’s needs and issues; development of manuals for transgender HIV prevention; and designated clinics with targeted services for transgender communities.

At the end of meeting, participants submitted recommendations, which included: more extensive work on data collection and evidence of HIV among trans people, especially among trans sex workers as they are most prone to HIV transmission; creation of more accessible counseling and health care service programmes by the government; and engagement between community-based organizations and the China CDC for technical and practical support on issues related to HIV.

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