Transgender visibility: The 'AIDS Tchê' initiative in Brazil | Angela Pires

13 Feb 2014

Transgender activists in Brazil Transgender activists in downtown Porto Alegre, Brazil, during a mobilization campaign for civil registry change and LGBT rights. Photo: Daniel de Castro/UNDP Brazil.

The Week of Transgender Visibility recently took place in Porto Alegre, Brazil, with three days of events and initiatives supported within the AIDS Tchê initiative, part of a UN Integrated Plan designed to support the poorest and most remote areas of the country.

Porto Alegre is the Brazilian city with the highest incidence rate of AIDS: 99.8  per 100,000, while the national average is 17.9. A recent study from one of the city’s hospitals indicates that seroprevalence among transgender women in Porto Alegre is quite high.

"If you look at the data for transgender women living in the metropolitan area of ​​Porto Alegre, we see that transgender women have a 14.5 times greater risk for HIV infection. These findings leave transgender women among the most vulnerable groups to the epidemic," says researcher Brandelli Angelo Costa.

Stigma and discrimination against transgender people are regarded as the main fuel for such increased vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. The violence against their daily basic expression of self leaves them out of the development process, undermines their life choices and excludes them from enjoying basic needs such as formal education, work and health care.

As with homophobic violence, transphobic violence remains rampant in Brazil and throughout the region. Latin America accounts for almost 80 percent of reported murders of transgender people in the world, and more than half of these deaths occur in Brazil, where 550 trans people are reported to have been killed since 2008.

Although these figures are already worrying, human rights leaders believe they may be even higher, as many transvestites and transsexuals in the bulletins are classified as homosexuals or men who have sex with men. Another obstacle is the lack of infrastructure for accurately monitoring these numbers in the country.

Changing the civil registry is the first step for ensuring a better quality of life for transgender people, facilitating their access to school, work and health facilities. Along with the process of changing the official identity card (RG), some states now offer an identity card that includes the social name for transgender people. To be submitted along with the RG, the social-name identity card has helped prevent many embarrassing public situations, such as in health facilities.

In Porto Alegre, UNDP Brazil supports a task force to change the civil registry; conducts sensitivity training for health professionals and provides HIV/AIDS prevention interventions.

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