Recruiting, Linking, and Retaining High-risk Transgender Women into HIV Prevention and Care Services: An Overview of Barriers, Strategies, and Lessons Learned

Cathy J Reback, Dahlia Ferlito, Kimberly A Kisler, Jesse B Fletcher
International Journal of Transgenderism 2015, 16 (4): 209-221
Despite disproportionately high HIV prevalence rates and high risk for HIV acquisition and transmission, trans women in the United States are less likely than other high-risk populations to be aware of their HIV status or to perceive HIV infection as a serious health threat. Furthermore, concurrently high rates of unstable housing, few legal employment opportunities, lack of social support, and distrust of social service providers limit trans women's interest or ability to be recruited by, retained within, or linked into HIV prevention and care services. This article provides an overview of the barriers that prevent many high-risk trans women from being recruited, linked, and retained within HIV prevention and care services as well as accessing HIV testing services, and discusses several strategies for overcoming these barriers. Best practices in working with high-risk trans women include hiring trans women indigenous to the local trans communities, designing culturally specific recruitment and retention strategies including the creation of living "community maps" to ensure successful community outreach, the construction of a trans women-specific CAB to create dialogue with community stakeholders including consumers, and extensive cultural sensitivity training for staff and community collaborators to sensitize them to the specific needs of high-risk trans women participants.


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