Between January and June 2010 alone, 93 transgender killings were reported by the media across the world. Eight out of ten of these murders (74 cases) took place in the region.
On 7 June the General Assembly of the Organization of American States adopted a resolution on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity that reaffirms the commitments of member states made in three previous resolutions on the issue.
Now that OAS have reaffirmed their commitments to human rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity it is imperative that member states keep their promises and ensure that the rights of sexual minorities are respected, protected and promoted and that gender based hate crimes are properly investigated and perpetrators taken to justice.
How transphobia is impeding the HIV response
There are an estimated 1.4 million people living with HIV in Latin America. For the last 30 years the transgender community in Latin America has been almost invisible. HIV monitoring focused solely on men who have sex with men, so the exact number of transgender people living with HIV was not known.However, recent studies have shown that where most Latin American countries have a HIV prevalence rate of 0.5 – 1%, among transgender people prevalence rates are estimated to be 35%.
Current laws and law enforcement practices do not support people living with HIV and
most-at-risk populations to access essential HIV services. In addition in Latin America, a culture of machismo and religious conservatism has nurtured a growing pattern of violence and hate crimes against the transgender community.
Without laws and law enforcement practices which protect human rights, people living with HIV and the communities most at risk of HIV are unable to access HIV services and participate in prevention, treatment, care and support programmes without fear of arrest or prosecution.
There have been some moves to legally protect most-at-risk populations from
discrimination (new and proposed legislation passed in Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador for instance). However, the reality is that prejudice and stigma is still deeply rooted in public services, particularly among health care workers, and unequal access to justice remain.
INCREASED VULNERABILITY TO HIV FOR TRANSGENDER PEOPLE
In addition to the violence and intimidation experienced by the transgender community, what puts them at particular risk to HIV?
Minimal to non-existent access to adequate healthcare. When transgenders access health services, the care provided is often stigmatising. They are treated as men and discriminated against for looking like women. The situation is worse for transgender people living with HIV;
few are able to access ARV treatment, even in countries where the state has committed to universal access to treatment.
Sex work is one of the few options available to transgender people in order to earn
money. Minimal educational background and strong discrimination on the part of employers result in few employment opportunities for transgender people. Studies suggest that about 90% of transgender people engage in sex work. Condom use is inconsistent – clients will often request unprotected anal sex and this will increase the risk of HIV.
Auto-prescription of hormones and self-administered body implants are very common
among transgender people. This very often involves the use of needles. Hormones and
silicone may be bought on the street. Unsafe body implant substances (like cooking and baby oil) are used and self-administered with minimal hygiene conditions and their use is not monitored by healthcare professionals. This is very risky and lead to severe health repercussions and a shorter life