Transgender persons are "Lost in Transition" on Human Rights and HIV Responses says new Asia-Pacific Report
Bangkok, 17 May 2012 - A lack of targeted research on transgender persons in Asia and the Pacific is
significantly hindering their access to health services and blocking effective responses to HIV, says a groundbreaking study
released here today to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. In this region, where long
marginalized sexual minorities are already bearing the brunt of the HIV epidemic, transgender persons are
among the most socially ostracized, lacking fundamental rights including basic access to health care and social protection schemes
Lost in Transition: Transgender People, Rights and HIV Vulnerability in the Asia-Pacific Region is a comprehensive review
of material gathered from across the region over the past 12 years. This unprecedented research in Asia, jointly released by the United
Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Asia Pacific Transgender Network (APTN), calls for concerted action by governments,
civil society, development partners and the transgender community itself to design and conduct further research to fill the
lack of information about transgender people and their environments.
"Transgender individuals across Asia-Pacific are often highly stigmatized, targets of prejudice, harassment, violence and
abuse," noted Clifton Cortez, Regional Practice Leader on HIV, Health and Development at the UNDP Asia-Pacific Regional Centre in
Bangkok. "We urgently need to shed light on their situation to better tailor social and public health responses to protect and
empower these communities."
The report emphasizes that inclusive research, designed and implemented in partnership with the transgender community, is
critical to enable governments, community based organisations and supporting organizations to enhance HIV and sexual healthcare
services specific to the needs of transgender people, and foster action by governments to adopt more socially equitable
policies and practices to protect their rights.
"For too long, trans people have been lost in transition," said Dr. Sam Winter from the University of Hong Kong, the author
of the report and a noted expert on transgender people and their challenges. "We hope that this report will demonstrate the burning need
to address a very human crisis, viewed through the prism of HIV, which has taken a devastating toll on millions of our fellow citizens
in our region and beyond."
Although national reported data remains limited, there is growing anecdotal evidence that HIV prevalence rates among
transgender people in the region have reached critical levels. These reported numbers commonly exceed the prevalence rates among
men who have sex with men, and young transgender women are thought to be at particular risk. Alarming figures from one Southeast
Asian city have suggested that over the four year period from 2003-2007, HIV prevalence among transgender people rose from 25
percent to 34 percent.
"Pushed to the social, economic and legal margins in a majority of countries in this region, trans people often
suffer from poor emotional health and well-being," explained Dr. Winter. "Many find themselves involved in risky behaviours
and situations, such as unsafe sex and involvement in sex work. Social exclusion, poverty and HIV infection contribute to
what we call a 'stigma-sickness slope', a downward spiral that is difficult to reverse."
Another challenge is that transgender people are usually treated similarly as men who have sex with men when it comes to
national HIV programming and funding. "We are most definitely not MSM," stressed Prempreeda Pramoj Na Ayutthaya, a noted Thai
transgender researcher and activist. "Many of us are physically very different, either as a result of hormone replacement
therapy or other medical procedures. Some of us have had a complete sex change. There is much we still don't know about
our particular vulnerability to HIV, and that needs to change."
There are encouraging developments, however, as the report points out. Among these, across much of the region, is a
developing transgender identity, a growing pride and an increasing willingness on the part of transgender communities to advocate
for increased participation in policy processes and organize peer support services at a national and regional level. "The
creation of advocacy networks, community-based organisations and non-government organisations devoted to empowering and
strengthening our communities is a source of joy," said Prempreeda.
The Asia Pacific Transgender Network, for example, has been recently established to advocate for the right to access health
services, to demand that laws which criminalize transgender people be repealed and to reiterate that vulnerability to HIV is couched
within the larger context of human rights. Prempreeda continued, "You can't separate our social well-being and human rights from
our efforts to address HIV within our communities. We're pleased that the UNDP report recognizes this."
To download the report, please visit:
Dr. Sam Winter
Associate Professor, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China
firstname.lastname@example.org; +852 9681 6310
Ms. Prempreeda Pramoj Na Ayutthaya
Transgender Activist, Bangkok, Thailand
email@example.com; +66 818 249 063
Mr. Edmund Settle
HIV Policy Specialist
UNDP Asia-Pacific Regional Centre, Bangkok, Thailand
firstname.lastname@example.org; +66 2 288 2918
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