By Greg Hernandez
The fact that 1 in 4 Black trans women are living with HIV and may not even know it is one of the biggest factors that drives Blossom C. Brown in her job as a Health Services Linkage to Care Coordinator for the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
“The call to action for me is to continue to reach out more to Black trans women who are dealing with HIV,” Brown said during a March 17 TogetherRide In Conversation virtual event moderated by San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s Chief Advancement Officer Russell D. Roybal.
Brown shared her thoughts on combating the stigma, discrimination, and exclusion many trans women — particularly women of color — face and connecting them to culturally competent sexual health care and access to PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis).
“What does access look like to the Black trans women who are doing sex work?” Brown wondered. “Are we reaching out to them in such a positive and empowering way where we can have that discussion on PrEP? People need to know there are resources. When you’re uninsured, you can still get PrEP. When you’re insured, you can still get PrEP. You can be undocumented, and you can still get PrEP.”
Brown makes sure her clients are educated about, and can get access to, the medication which can prevent people from contracting HIV.
“PrEP is a game-changer,” she said. “I love the advances of PrEP. I love being able to educate people on it and being able to get people the access they need. Having the power to choose is such a beautiful, beautiful thing. When my clients choose PrEP, I get very, very excited because I’m meeting them where they are. I’m empowering their sex life.”
Offering a safe space and establishing trust are key to persuading clients to take PrEP. Brown points out many Black people mistrust the health care system in general and being trans intensifies that mistrust.
“It’s about providing safe spaces where we don’t have to worry about transphobia, we don’t have to worry about the misogyny, we don’t have to worry about being laughed at when we come into a certain place,” she explained. “Building that trust between trans women and the health care system really does take a lot of effort.”
Brown praised the Center’s education efforts including an outreach team at Center South, the Center’s location in South LA near Leimert Park.
“We definitely have a lot of work to do,” she acknowledged. “But I just want to give praise to the work that has been done. Being able to have a transgender health program here at the Center has been such a safe haven for a lot of trans people. That is such a great, great thing, and I would love to see an expansion on that, too. Keep building, keep thriving. We just have to keep going, keep creating new coalitions.”
For more information about PrEP, visit prephere.org
For more information about TogetheRide, which pledges to ride 1.2 million miles and raise $5 million in critical funds to support San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the HIV/AIDS-related services of the Center, visit togetheride.org.
Watch TogetherRide: In Conversation HERE.