The one thing we have control of

by Amanda Kerri

Trans Issues Columnist

Recently my doctor decided to start me on blood pressure medicine...finally. One of those annoying signs that I am, indeed, getting older.

For me, part of getting older has always meant keeping in mind the health of my parents who died of heart issues and cancer just a few years older than I am now. While that’s a health issue of my concern, there are other issues I must keep in mind since I am transgender as well. 

Doctors keep reminding me that part of my transition comes with hormone treatments and the medical issues they bring. However, few ever bring up the other issue that comes with not merely being transgender, but a member of the LGBTQ community; HIV and PrEP.

If you’ve never heard of PrEP, the acronym means Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, hence the easier nickname. In essence, PrEP is a one-pill combo of two drugs taken daily to reduce the chances of being infected with HIV. There’s a bit more to it, but that’s the gist. 

While of course we always see the bowls of condoms on the counters of the bars, that’s not merely enough to stay safe, especially if you’re sexually active.

One needs to regularly get tested, use protection, and explore the option of getting on the PrEP program.

The reason I bring this up is because few in the trans community are aware of how serious HIV is within our community.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, of the 2,351 transgender people diagnosed with HIV between 2009 and 2014, 1,974 or eighty-four percent were transgender women. Eighty-four.

Fifteen percent were transgender men. That’s right transmen; you too can contract HIV. Of that number, almost half were living in the South and over half of all were POC’s. 

These statistics place transgender people at three times the rate of infection than the national average. 

The number of difficulties and challenges we face as transgender people are too numerous to count. From job protections, violence, poverty, bathroom issues, loneliness and the ostracizing from our families are issues put upon us by others. 

Much of being transgender is trying to fight against people who would oppress us and make our lives impossible to live.

Even our struggle to come out and accept who we are is a challenge we never asked for or probably, for most of us, ever wanted. 

But the one thing that we do have control over is our health and how we choose to take care of it. Yes, accessing health care for us is one of the hugest hurdles to overcome, but there are ways to do what you can to find accessible health care.

There are health services available at places like Planned Parenthood, friendly private practitioners and other community resources we can seek out, which includes help from each other.

While seeking out emotional support and the medicines we need to make our transition possible, HIV is one that we can take direct control over and ensure is an issue that will never be one that holds our life back.

The Gayly. March 7, 2018. 9:42 a.m. CST.