Scant research has explored the engagement of transgender (trans) women living with HIV (WLWH) in the HIV care cascade, particularly in universal health care settings like Canada. This convergent parallel, mixed-methods study drew on cross-sectional quantitative data from 50 trans WLWH in the Canadian HIV Women's Sexual and Reproductive Health Cohort Study (CHIWOS) and qualitative semistructured interview data from a subsample of 11 participants. Descriptive analyses were used to describe proportions of trans WLWH at five steps of the HIV care cascade and bivariate analyses to determine associations between hypothesized barriers/facilitators and HIV care cascade outcomes. Framework analysis was used to describe barriers and facilitators to HIV care engagement. Quantitative and qualitative data were then compared and contrasted. While use of purposive sampling, including recruitment through AIDS Service Organizations and HIV clinics, may have led to oversampling of trans WLWH who already had access to care, gaps were still seen in antiretroviral therapy (ART) outcomes (current ART use: 78%; ≥95% adherence among those currently taking ART: 67%). The number of years living with HIV was positively associated with HIV care cascade engagement. Factors associated with lower engagement included: higher health-related quality of life, depressive and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, barriers to access to care, transphobia, HIV-related stigma, and housing insecurity. Qualitative findings converged and expanded on how physical health, and social and structural marginalization, influence trans WLWH's engagement in HIV care. Qualitative findings elaborated on the importance of ART-related factors in impeding or facilitating engagement, including concerns about feminizing hormone-ART drug-drug interactions. Mixed-methods findings reveal how trans WLWH experience barriers common to other people living with HIV, and also experience unique barriers as a result of trans and HIV experiences.
Keywords: CHIWOS; HIV care; adherence; antiretroviral therapy; stigma; transgender.