Over Half of HIV-Positive Trans People Have Attempted Suicide

A new report from the Williams Institute and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reveals sobering statistics about the suicide risk of transgender people.

BY Parker Marie Molloy

January 28 2014 3:26 PM ET

According to a recent report from the Williams Institute, 51 percent of HIV-positive transgender and gender-nonconforming people have attempted suicide during their lifetimes. This figure is a full 11 points higher than already-sobering suicide attempt rate trans and gender-nonconforming respondents who do not have HIV.

The study, co-authored by Ann Haas and Phil Rodgers of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, along with Jody Herman of the University of California Los Angeles's Williams Institute, provides what appears to be the most robust breakdown of the factors that contribute to the strikingly high prevalence of trans suicides.

"This study outlines the potential links between minority stressors and suicidal behavior among transgender and gender nonconforming individuals," Herman said in a press release Tuesday. "More research is needed, but this is a critical first step in efforts to address the negative mental health impacts of antitransgender discrimination."

These minority stressors, which include the denial of healthcare, employment discrimination, housing discrimination, childhood bullying, mental health status, and whether or not an individual is HIV-positive, all show themselves to correlate to an increased likelihood that a transgender person will commit suicide.

In a report released late last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shared some alarming data regarding transgender individuals and HIV infection rates that was culled from a number of different published studies. It found that 27.7 percent of transgender women are HIV-positive. At the time of the study, 73 percent of those who tested positive were unaware of their status beforehand.

The CDC report lays out a number of steps the organization is taking is in an effort to combat the high rates of trans infection, including revisions to the National HIV Surveillance System, increased funding to Act Against AIDS campaigns, and working to change the hostile environment transgender people often encounter when seeking medical treatment.

Between the information contained in the CDC report and the AFSP/Williams Institute study, it's become clearer than ever that transgender individuals remain one of society's most vulnerable groups.

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