Transgender women in Kampala face stigma, high HIV acquisition or transmission risk and poor access to health services. We explored the HIV and gender-related contexts of their lives. Snowball sampling was used to enrol 45 participants between July-October 2013. Data collection included audio-computer-assisted self-interviews, qualitative face-to-face interviews and blood tests for HIV and CD4. One in five respondents tested HIV positive. Emergent themes revealed highly varied forms of gender identity and gender expression. Almost all respondents asserted that they frequently engaged in sex work, mainly due to lack of employment. HIV-related themes included limited access to non-stigmatising health services, inconsistent condom use, inaccurate perceptions of self and partners' risk, alcohol use, receptive anal sex with men, multiple sex partners, frequent self and enacted stigma, and violence. Findings highlight the urgency of providing members of this marginalised population with tailored, innovative, comprehensive and effective HIV prevention programmes that address structural issues such as access to HIV services and limited employment as well as behavioural issues such as inconsistent condom use, multiple sexual partners, self and enacted stigma, violence and alcohol use.
Keywords: Africa; HIV; Uganda; sex work; transgender women.