We Are All Women: Barriers and Facilitators to Inclusion of Transgender Women in HIV Treatment and Support Services Designed for Cisgender Women

AIDS Patient Care STDS. 2020 Sep;34(9):392-398. doi: 10.1089/apc.2020.0056. Epub 2020 Aug 18.


Transgender women share more in common with cisgender women, with respect to sociocultural context and factors influencing HIV risk and outcomes, than they do with "men who have sex with men", a behavioral risk category in which they often are included. However, it is not yet clear whether both transgender and cisgender women would find integrated, all-women HIV programs and services desirable and beneficial. We Are All Women was a qualitative study conducted in the San Francisco Bay Area from April 2016 to January 2017, using a conceptual framework based on gender affirmation and trauma-informed care, to explore barriers and facilitators to inclusion of transgender women in HIV treatment and support services traditionally focused on cisgender women. Thirty-eight women (10 trans, 25 cis, and 3 "other" gender) participated in six semistructured, facilitated focus groups. In addition, five HIV care providers participated in semistructured, in-depth interviews. Both trans and cis women identified the desire for gender affirmation, a feeling of safety (specifically space without men), and potential community building within a care and healing context as powerful facilitators of an inclusive all-women care environment. At the same time, they recognized that tensions do exist between idealized visions of such an environment, deep-seated sentiments and behaviors among some cis women toward trans women, and the practical realities of creating the optimal spaces for all women. Opportunities for dialog between trans and cis women to mitigate gender-associated phobias and misperceptions are a valuable first step in creating HIV care environments that serve all women.

Keywords: HIV; HIV treatment; cisgender women; transgender women; women's health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prejudice
  • Qualitative Research
  • San Francisco
  • Transgender Persons*
  • Transsexualism*
  • Young Adult