Background: Transgender persons are highly victimized, marginalized, disproportionately experience incarceration, and have alarmingly increased rates of HIV infection compared to cis-gender persons. Few studies have examined the HIV care continuum outcomes among transgender women (TW), particularly TW who are involved with the criminal justice (CJ) system.
Methods: To improve our understanding of HIV care continuum outcomes and risk behaviors among HIV-infected TW who are involved with the CJ system, we analyzed data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse-supported Seek, Test, Treat, Retain (STTR) Data Harmonization Initiative. Baseline data were pooled and analyzed from three U.S. STTR studies to examine HIV risk and care continuum indicators among CJ-involved HIV-infected TW compared to cisgender men (CM), matched on age (within 5 years) and study at a ratio of 1:5.
Results: Eighty-eight TW and 440 CM were included in the study. Among matched participants, TW were more likely to report crack and cocaine use compared to CM (40%,16% respectively, p<0.001); both TW and CM reported high rates of condomless sex (58%, 64%, respectively); TW were more likely than CM to have more than one sexual partner (OR = 2.9, 95% CI: 1.6, 5.2; p<0.001) and have engaged in exchange sex (OR = 3.9, 95% CI: 2.3, 6.6; p<0.001). There were no significant differences between TW and CM in the percentage currently taking ART (52%, 49%, respectively), the mean percent adherence to ART (77% for both groups), and the proportion who achieved viral suppression (61%, 58%, respectively).
Conclusions: HIV-infected CJ-involved TW and CM had similar use of ART and viral suppression but TW were more likely than matched CM to engage in exchange sex, have multiple sexual partners, and use crack/cocaine. TW and CM had similarly high rates of condomless sex and use of other drugs. TW require tailored risk reduction interventions, however both CJ-involved TW and CM require focused attention to reduce HIV risk and improve HIV continuum of care outcomes.