Expanding HIV Research to the Transgender Community


The transgender community includes a plethora of patients who can benefit from HIV/AIDS research. However, clinical trials rarely include transgender participants.

The transgender community includes a plethora of patients who can benefit from HIV/AIDS research. However, clinical trials rarely include transgender participants.

Sometimes, the stigma associated with gender change is a barrier. Other times, the clinical trial’s exclusion criteria prohibit transgender participants.

This issue is important for pharmacists because they’re well placed to encourage all patients to enroll in clinical trials if they qualify. It’s the focus of an article that appeared in the August 2016 issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.

For some time now, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has recognized a knowledge deficit surrounding lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) health. The 2011 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding, revealed that too little is known about the LGBT community’s health care needs. As a result, the NIH formed the Sexual and Gender Minority committee to identify research gaps and opportunities.

The IOM also published improved methodologies to reach the LGBT community, stimulate more LGBT-focused research, and enhance cultural competency of providers and researchers.

The transgender community has been newly engaged in a number of studies thanks to 4 networks: the HIV Vaccine Trials Network, Microbicide Trials Network, HIV Prevention Trials Network, and Adolescent Medicine Trials Network. Each has made contributions to help include transgender communities in clinical trials, such as developing glossaries and reference guides for appropriate language and cultural competence training.

Overall, the networks indicate that in order to include transgender individuals in trials, researchers need to cultivate certain clear qualities. They must be culturally competent, nondiscriminatory, and respectful. Researchers must also want to establish relationships with transgender individuals.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) HIV networks is a specific group that promotes scientific priorities. In 2014, a group of community representatives called Community Partners urged NIAID to increase its focus on transgender issues. They recommended including transgender individuals in all trials, cultural responsiveness training, more accurate and uniform data collection on gender identity, and transgender-specific research.

With more resources and training materials available, HIV research communities must begin to use available tools to incorporate transgender communities. This is a fantastic opportunity for pharmacists and other health care professionals to learn and involve a relevant patient population in their research.

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