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Research Gaps in Drug Interactions Raise Concerns for Transgender Women With HIV

Results from a recent study conducted show that a majority of transgender women living with HIV in Los Angeles felt anxious about simultaneously taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) for the treatment of HIV and feminizing hormone therapy (HT), due to the possibility of hazardous drug interactions. This information is causing concerns because it indicates that the participants feel that they cannot safely take medicines for HIV while taking hormone therapy that affirms the gender that they identify with. 

Transgender women are increasingly vulnerable to acquiring HIV. According to a meta-analysis released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2013, 22% of transgender women were living with HIV in 5 of the world’s high-income nations, including the United States. This data echo the concerning conclusion of the survey, because ART is most effective when used early and steadily. The optimal use of anti-HIV medications is important for several reasons, including preventing serious HIV-related side effects and impeding the sexual transmission of HIV to others, which contributes to reducing the pandemic. 

The research findings, which were conducted with support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Gilead Sciences, were reported at the 9th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Science yesterday in Paris, by representatives from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), which are part of NIH. The findings were reported from a survey of 87 transgender women receiving health care at an AIDS service organization in Los Angeles. More than half of the total population had been diagnosed with HIV and were prescribed ART. Sixty-nine percent of the participants were using HT, but a quarter of that population reported that they were using HT without proper medical supervision, according to the study. Thirty-four percent of transgender women with HIV were using HT without supervision, compared with only 13% of transgender women without HIV, according to the study.

The study also indicated that 57% of the participants living with HIV were worried about possible drug interactions between ART and HT, and 40% of participants attributed not using one or both therapies because of their concerns. Despite reporting their concerns in the study, only 49% discussed their concerns with their medical professional.

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