AskDocQ: Should Transgender People Consider Taking HIV Drug PrEP?


Prep

Amidst all the press releases and updates on PrEP and HIV, there’s one group that may sometimes miss out, or may think the message is not for them, and that’s transgender folk.

Often it can seem like all the talk around HIV prevention is aimed squarely at cis guys who have sex with guys, but if you are transgender you may also benefit from PrEP.

Across the world transgender women have a 20% rate of HIV infection, which is higher than the rate in other risk groups.

In Australia, the rate is probably a lot lower than this, but it’s hard to know, as trans people are so often missed or incorrectly gendered during data collection.

This isn’t surprising, given that it’s only two years since trans people were even allowed to be counted in the national census, and too often medical databases don’t seem to be able to cope with recording anything other than male or female.

We don’t know the rate of HIV in transgender men, but if they are having sex with guys who usually have sex with other guys, then they are definitely at risk of catching HIV.

Trans guys’ risk may also be increased because of testosterone effects – T can cause the lining of the front hole to be thinned and more likely to tear or bleed during sex.

The good news is that PrEP is available, and any transgender or non-binary person who feels they may be at risk of HIV can discuss their need for PrEP with their doctor.

And you don’t have to worry about interactions with your HRT, as PrEP does not affect hormones at all.

PrEP is a single pill a day which protects you from HIV infection, with little or no side effects, and it’s available on the PBS, making it affordable.

To be eligible for PrEP you need to be HIV negative, and willing to be tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) every 3 months.

If you’ve ever had a sexual partner, you should consider whether you need an HIV test, and organize to have one next time you’re seeing your doctor.

There’s no vaccine or cure for HIV, so apart from condoms PrEP is your best chance at avoiding HIV. If you think you might be at risk, talk to your doctor today.

Dr Fiona Bisshop specialises in LGBT health and is available by appointment at Holdsworth House Medical Brisbane. Call (07) 3894 0794 or visit the Holdsworth House website. Read more by Dr Fiona Bisshop on her website or contact her on Twitter. Send your health question to [email protected] and Dr Fiona Bisshop will answer them in QNews Magazine. #AskDocQ is completely anonymous. No identifying information will be printed in the Doc’s reply, and your personal information stays with the Doc.

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