New York: Jamaica center will use grant to fight HIV in the transgender community

By Rich Bockmann  

Although HIV/AIDS rates have generally been on the decline, transgender women of color are still at alarmingly high risk of contracting the disease, although one Jamaica health clinic is hoping a new funding stream will allow it to reduce some of the exposure in the transgender population.

The Queens Health Center, at 97-04 Sutphin Blvd., is part of a network of clinics that will receive $1.5 million over the next five years to provide care and evaluation services to the transgender community.

“This grant is a testament to our leadership in treating the medically under-served and disenfranchised, something we have been doing since our founding in 1981,” said Community Healthcare Network President and CEO Catherine Abate.

The New York City-based organization was of nine in the country to receive the grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.

“We are grateful to HRSA for allowing us to lead this demonstration project, but we are most thankful that we will be able to expand our care to the transgender community,” Abate added. “There is great demand for services and we will now be better able to meet it.”

Between 2007 and 2011, the network provided health services to about 700 transgender individuals at its clinic in Jamaica and another in the South Bronx through its Transgender Family Program, with encouraging results.

According to an evaluation by the 2012 International AIDS Conference, over a four-year span one of the program was able to show a reduction in a number of high risk behaviors, including unregulated hormone injection, sex with multiple partners, needle sharing and sex work.

Overall, the network’s program was shown to reduce the prevalence of HIV from 44 percent in 2007 to 28 percent in 2011, the evaluation showed.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21 percent of people with HIV are unaware of their status and those individuals account for more than 50 percent of newly transmitted infections.

The health care network will use the grant to implement its Transgender Women Engagement and Entry to Care Project, dubbed the TWEET Care Project, in Jamaica.

Peer leaders will reach out to the transgender community to identify HIV-positive transgender women and attempt to link them with the care they often lack due to stigmas and prejudices.

Community Healthcare Network’s goal is to receive 792 referrals to the project and provide 198 HIV-positive transgender women of color with care over the five-year period.