Risks and experiences of transgender women in Lebanon

Forms of safety and their impact on health: an exploration of HIV/AIDS-related risk and resilience among trans women in Lebanon.

Kaplan RL, Wagner GJ, Nehme S, Aunon F, Khouri D, Mokhbat J. Health Care Women Int. 2015 Aug;36(8):917-35. doi: 10.1080/07399332.2014.896012. Epub 2014 Apr 9.

Using minority stress theory, the authors investigated risk behaviors of transgender women (trans women) in Lebanon. Using semistructured interviews, the authors explored six areas: relationships with family and friends; openness about gender and sexuality; experiences with stigma; sexual behavior; attitudes and behaviors regarding HIV testing; and perceived HIV-related norms among transgender peers. Participants voiced the importance of different forms of safety: social/emotional, physical, sexual, and financial. Strategies for obtaining safety were negotiated differently depending on social, behavioral, and structural factors in the environment. In this article, we provide study findings from the perspectives of trans women, their exposure to stigma, and the necessary navigation of environments characterized by transphobia

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Editor’s notes: Transgender women have a high risk of HIV acquisition / transmission, due to experiences of stigma, discrimination and transphobia. However there is a dearth of studies on transgender women from North Africa or the Middle East.

Interviews with ten trans-women from Beirut were included in this qualitative study. The study findings highlight the extreme vulnerability of transgender women to stigma, discrimination, violence, mental ill-health, financial insecurity and HIV and STI risk. Social support and emotional security from family, friends, and the transgender community was frequently lacking. Mental ill-health (9/10) and suicide ideation / attempts was high (5/10). Stigma and discrimination by peers and teachers at school, and at the work-place were common. Many also reported verbal, physical and sexual abuse and violence in public spaces. Many participants were selling anal sex to reduce financial insecurity. Money was a key motivator for condom non-use. 

Programmes with transgender women should be multi-component to reflect the complexity of their needs. They should include HIV prevention, advocacy of laws to prevent discrimination, employment opportunities to enable economic independence, and treatment and support for mental ill-health.

Asia
Lebanon
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