Implementation Strategies for Creating Inclusive, All-Women HIV Care Environments: Perspectives From Trans and Cis Women

Womens Health Issues. Jul-Aug 2021;31(4):332-340. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2021.04.001. Epub 2021 Apr 30.


Introduction: Transgender (trans) women in the United States have disproportionately high rates of HIV acquisition, yet there remains a dearth of culturally appropriate and gender affirming HIV care services for them. Trans women often are aggregated with men who have sex with men based on biological essentialism and behaviorally defined characteristics, even though they have more in common with cisgender (cis) women, such as gender identity and psychosocial factors that influence HIV risk. As a result, trans women often are rendered invisible and underserved in the HIV response. We explore the feasibility of constructing inclusive, all-women HIV care environments as a way to redress the dearth of appropriate services for trans women living with HIV and to affirm their gender identity as women.

Methods: Thirty-eight women living with HIV and five providers participated in a qualitative focus group and interview study between April 2016 and January 2017, exploring the desirability and practicality of including trans women in HIV treatment and support services traditionally focused on cis women. Transcripts were coded and template analysis was employed to discern key themes.

Results: Participants identified concrete strategies for implementation of inclusive, all-women HIV care related to representation and visibility of trans women, community input, education and training, aspects of the clinic environment, and flexibility and creativity. The impact of trauma and the need for safety and gender affirmation were emphasized throughout.

Conclusions: Trans and cis women found the idea of inclusive, all-women's HIV care environments attractive and feasible, notwithstanding cultural and structural challenges to creating them.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • HIV Infections* / therapy
  • Homosexuality, Male
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities*
  • Transgender Persons*
  • United States