Transgender people are disproportionately affected by HIV. Despite their high vulnerability to HIV, lack of adequate epidemiological and surveillance data related to this population in many countries prevents provision of appropriate services. This paper summarizes descriptive findings from a national integrated biological and behavioral survey and discusses policy implications of the findings on HIV prevention among transgender women in Cambodia.
This cross-sectional study was conducted between December 2015 and February 2016. Participants were recruited from 20 sites in the capital city and 12 provinces of Cambodia using Respondent Driven Sampling (RDS) method. Behavioral data were collected through structured questionnaire interviews, and rapid finger-prick HIV testing was performed. Descriptive data analyses were conducted using STATA.
This study included 1,375 transgender women with a mean age of 25.9 years (SD = 7.1). The overall prevalence of HIV was 5.9%. The prevalence of HIV was significantly higher among urban participants compared to their rural counterparts (6.5 vs. 2.6%, p = 0.02). Almost one in five (19.6%) had never been tested for HIV prior to the study. Overall, 45.0% reported ever using gender affirming hormones. More than one-third (39.1%) reported not using condoms in their last sex, 29.8% had engaged in sex in exchange for money/gifts, and 14.0% reported that they had experienced at least one symptom of sexually transmitted infections (STI) in the past year. About one in ten (10.1%) reported having used some form of amphetamine-type stimulant drugs, while 6.5% reported having sex during or after using illicit drugs. A significant number of participants experienced sexual abuse (39.2%), losing a job (24.3%), or physical abuse (23.6%) because of their transgender identity. In addition, 82.9 and 88.9% would be willing to use the HIV self-test and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), respectively, if they become available.
The high prevalence of HIV, STI, and related risk behaviors among transgender women in Cambodia is of great concern, suggesting an urgent need to further expand tailored prevention interventions for this key population focusing on individual, social, and structural drivers of HIV. HIV self-test and PrEP should be explored as a priority.