Transgender women record highest HIV risk at Kenya’s Coast

By Gatonye Gathura

Transgender women may have the highest HIV incidence among three key populations at Kenya’s Coast, shows a new study.

HIV incidence among transgender women was at 20.6 percent compared to 5.1 percent among men who exclusively have sex with men and 3.4 percent among men who have sex with both men and women.

The small study carried out by the Kenya Medical Research Institute, (KEMRI) was published on 13th June 2019 in the Journal of the International AIDS Society.

The study also involving the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, University of Washington, US, and University of Oxford, UK, reports this as the first time HIV incidence has been assessed exclusively among transgender women in Kenya.

In the past, the study says transgender women have been lumped together with other groups such as men who have sex with men exclusively (MSME) and men who have sex with men and women (MSMW).

In this case, the study carried out at the Malindi Sub-County Hospital at Kenya’s coast, involved 168 participants from the three groups.

The results show the incidence of HIV among transgender women about four times higher than in the other groups. “TGW had a very high HIV-1 incidence compared with MSME and MSM.”

The study also suggests the high incidence of HIV in this group may be because of the high frequency of transactional sex compared to the other groups.

These results are published when other recent studies have reported the increasing incidence of sexually transmitted infections, (STI) among these groups in Kenya.

In May 2019 US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention – Kisumu, the University of Washington and others, published data in the British Medical Journal showing high rates of asymptomatic anorectal gonorrhoea and chlamydia infections among MSM in Kenya.

A study published by several Chinese medical researchers warned of an increasing habit of rectal douching among gay men including in Kenya.

The study warned that rectal douching may put MSM at increased risk for infection with HIV and other STIs citing the case of young men in western Kenya.

The cited study had been carried out by among others the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nairobi, Kenya, and the NGO – Impact Research and Development Organization of Kisumu, Kenya. The study reported most gay men in Kisumu to be engaging in rectal douching.

The study published in the journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases in November 2018 found 63 percent of the 202 MSM participating in the study were engaged in rectal douching.

“Among MSM who engaged in sex work, those who practiced rectal douching reported more regular clients per week compared those without douching.

Douching the cleaning of the inside of the vagina with water or other cleansing fluids is discouraged as unhealthy by medical personnel.

Previously an exclusive of women, rectal douching is increasingly being reported in men with doctors warning of the high risk of HIV and other STIs infections.

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