Transgender people are continuing to face widespread stigma, discrimination and social rejection in Latin America and the Caribbean. In most countries in the region, there is no legal recognition of transgender people’s affirmed gender identity. Without official documents that recognize their gender identity, transgender people are often denied access to basic rights, including the right to health, education, justice and social welfare. Transgender people are also more susceptible to violence, including physical and sexual violence.
Transgender women are also particularly affected by HIV. Estimates show that HIV prevalence for transgender women in the region range from 8% to 23% and there are few support programmes that address their specific needs. Where programmes do exist, they rarely include access to sexual and reproductive health services or HIV prevention, testing and treatment services.
However, the transgender community is increasingly speaking out about the challenges they face. Marcela Romero, Coordinator of REDLACTRANS, the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Transgender People, said, “Countries must take urgent steps to enact robust laws for non-discrimination with respect to gender identity and pass gender identity laws to guarantee access to education, work, housing and health services. These laws give transgender people the right to health and to access all the benefits and opportunities that any other citizen has. Without this right, we cannot access HIV prevention, care and treatment services.”
In 2012 in Argentina, REDLACTRANS and ATTTA, the Argentine association for transvestites, transsexuals and transgender people, played a key role in the passing of a law that gives transgender people the right to request that their recorded sex, first name and image be amended to match their self-perceived gender identity.
Such gender identity laws greatly improve the quality of life of transgender people. “In countries where legal recognition of affirmed gender identity has been achieved, transgender people are enjoying a higher life expectancy. Gender identity laws recognize transgender people as human beings—as citizens—put transgender people on the agendas of governments and reduce transphobia, stigma and discrimination,” Ms Romero explained.
The International Transgender Day of Visibility celebrates transgender people and raises awareness of the discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide on 31 March each year. To mark the day, Ms Romero has a simple but powerful message: “We do not ask for other rights—we ask for the same rights as any other citizen. A person who does not have an identity does not exist. We are part of society!”
UNAIDS is working to ensure that the target in the 2016 United Nations Political Declaration on Ending AIDS of ensuring access to combination prevention options to at least 90% of people by 2020—especially young women and adolescent girls in high-prevalence countries and key populations, including transgender people—is met.