The Institute of HIV Research and Innovation in Bangkok has planned an initiative to better the healthcare for trans women in Thailand.
When asked, many Thai trans women said they were more concerned with their hormone treatment than their HIV status. Many of these trans women get their hormone medication online or from the black market without a prior doctor’s consultation or a prescription. Without proper care, many trans women do not have enough hormone concentrations to transition effectively.
Out of about 300,000+ trans women in Thailand, roughly 60,000 are sexually active. The incidence of new HIV infections annually is around 2.12%. By combining HIV care and trans-specific care, the Tangerine Community Health Clinic seeks to improve the overall health of trans women in Thailand.
The program manager for transgender health at the Institute of HIV Research and Innovation, Rena Janamnuaysook, said the following:
“We learned that transgender people agreed that gender-affirming care and hormone treatment was their health priority; it was not HIV. So that’s why we have integrated gender-affirming care and hormone treatment as part of the comprehensive service provided for transgender people,”
“A study showed that half of the transgender respondents in a survey reported that they never received advice and counseling from healthcare providers on gender-affirming care and almost half of the transgender participants reported having negative experience from healthcare providers.”
In another study, 15% of healthcare workers thought that trans women should be ashamed when they have HIV. According to Janamnuaysook, this shows the stigma and discrimination against transgender identity and is why HIV remains one of the problems in Thailand.
The Tangerine Health Clinic has provided comprehensive care for trans people for seven years. They have trained transgender staff and gender-sensitive healthcare providers which helps keep the clinic stigma-free. They provide services such as counseling, gender-affirming surgical procedures, hormone level monitoring, HIV testing and treatment, and many others.
The program has been very successful and the idea of integrated care has expanded to neighboring countries like the Philippines and Vietnam.
“People-centered health services must be adopted and organized around the health needs of people, rather than diseases. Transgender-led and transgender-owned programming is key to the HIV community response and should be sustained,” Janamnuaysook said.