Every year on April 18, National Transgender HIV Testing Day is observed to recognize the importance of routine HIV testing and awareness of HIV status among transgender and non-binary people. It’s also a day to focus on HIV prevention and treatment efforts.
At the Trans Wellness Center in Koreatown, the HIV awareness effort occurs all year long because knowing your HIV status is the first step to keeping yourself and your community healthy.
“It is important to know your HIV status—it can be scary but you’re better off knowing,” says Solace Rosado, Trans Wellness Center’s health education specialist/clinical liaison.
Transgender women and men are disproportionately affected by HIV, according to an analysis conducted by the Centers for Disease Control.
While estimated HIV prevalence for adults in the U.S. is less than 0.5%, prevalence for transgender women was 14.1% and 3.2% for transgender men.
Transgender women of color are at particularly high risk. The HIV prevalence among African-American transgender women is at 44.2% and among Hispanic transgender women it is 25.8%. White transgender women are at 6.7%.
The CDC does not have enough data available to examine HIV prevalence by race/ethnicity for transgender men.
In case someone tests positive, Trans Wellness Center can immediately begin the process of linkage to care, which is a crucial early step in successful HIV treatment and is typically defined as the completion of a first medical clinic visit after an HIV diagnosis.
“We want people to feel comfortable enough to come and find out their status,” Rosado says. “We’re here to help them if something comes up and it’s not what they expected. A lot of our community members turn to sex work for survival, and sometimes the person they are working with doesn’t want to use a condom, or substances are being used—and condoms aren’t even in the picture.”
Rosado adds: “Your health comes first. If you are nervous, there are resources and groups we can connect you to assist you. Mental health and sexual health are connected. When you’re ready, come and get a test.”
Anyone who is registered as a Trans Wellness Center client receives free, rapid, and confidential HIV testing with results coming back within 5-10 minutes.
After completing the tests, they also receive a $25 gift card provided by APAIT (Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team, one of the five local organizations partnering to form Trans Wellness Center. In addition to the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the other partnering organizations are Bienestar, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA), Friends Community Center, and Translatin@ Coalition).
Rapid HIV testings are available five days a week at Trans Wellness Center with no appointment needed. The incentivized HIV testings, however, are available only Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m.–Noon and 3–5 p.m. An appointment is required by calling 323-993-2900.
For more information, visit mytranswellness.org