Overview and Methodology of the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance Among Transgender Women - Seven Urban Areas, United States, 2019-2020

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MMWR Supplements


Transgender women, especially transgender women of color, are disproportionately affected by HIV. However, no surveillance system collects data on HIV risk factors among this population. To address this gap, CDC developed a surveillance system entitled National HIV Behavioral Surveillance Among Transgender Women (NHBS-Trans) to assess behavioral and contextual data through systematic biobehavioral surveillance to monitor behavioral risk factors, prevention usage, and HIV prevalence among transgender women. NHBS-Trans used respondent-driven sampling in seven urban areas in the United States. Trained interviewers used a standardized, anonymous questionnaire to collect information on HIV-related behavioral risk factors, HIV testing, and use of prevention services. Each of the seven participating project areas recruited approximately 200 eligible transgender women and offered anonymous HIV testing. Overall, in the seven project areas, 1,757 participants completed the eligibility screener for NHBS-Trans during 2019-2020; of these, 6.6% were seeds (i.e., a limited number of initial participants who were chosen by referrals from persons and community-based organizations who knew or were part of the local population of transgender women). A total of 1,637 (93.2%) participants were eligible, consented, and completed the interview. Of these, 1,624 (99.2%) agreed to HIV testing. Of the total 1,637 participants, 29 participants did not report identity of woman or transgender woman, resulting in a final sample of 1,608 transgender women. NHBS-Trans project area staff members (n = 14) reported that the survey was timely and addressed a critical need for HIV surveillance in a population that is often overlooked. The MMWR supplement includes this overview report on NHBS-Trans, which describes the methods (history, participant eligibility criteria, questionnaire, data collection, and HIV testing) as well as evaluation of project implementation and the performance of the questionnaire content, specifically the acceptability for transgender women. The other NHBS-Trans reports in the supplement include information on pre-exposure prophylaxis use, psychosocial syndemic conditions and condomless anal intercourse, nonprescription hormone use, homelessness, discrimination and the association between employment discrimination and health care access and use, and social support and the association between certain types of violence and harassment (gender-based verbal and physical abuse or harassment, physical intimate partner abuse or harassment, and sexual violence) and suicidal ideation. NHBS-Trans provides important data related to the goals of the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. initiative. Findings from NHBS-Trans can help guide community leaders, clinicians, and public health officials in improving access to and use of HIV prevention and treatment services by transgender women.

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