LGBTQ Health Advocate
Columbus Public Health
After lunch at day 2 of the LGBTI Health Research Conference at Baldwin Wallace is all about sexual health. Historically this would have been the bulk of such a conference as this. As most of us know, pathology-focused research on homosexuality and gender diversity, along with the stigma associated with the HIV/AIDS epidemic forced LGBTI healthcare into a sexual health box for many years. It’s interesting to see that the pendulum is swinging back the other way in some ways as we as LGBTI healthcare workers/researchers are now having to convince certain communities that sexual health is still an important factor of the LGBTI health experience.
Dr. Anthony Silvestre, professor of Infectious Disease and Microbiology at the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh, opened with a lunch-time keynote on the history of sexual health research, reminding us how far we’ve come regarding the study of sex and sexuality in this country. He than joined Dr. Brian Dodge, Indiana University-Bloomington School of Public Health, for the “LGBTI Health Training” seminar track, which included a lively discussion on the changing landscape of HIV and intersectionality in public health research.
There was definitely a lot of talk about training program models in Indiana and Pennsylvania, but through the lens of sexual health research. Dr. Silvestre spoke on University of Pittsburgh’s LGBT health certificate program along with several other LGBT-focused specialized programs the university offers, including a post-doctorate program that specialized in MSM (men who have sex with men) healthcare.
Dr. Dodge made several interesting conjectures about the study of sexual health saying, much of the conversation regarding sexual health has been risk based. “We need to be including more about the actual pleasure of sex and begin taking a more sex-positive approach. It is okay for gay sex to be enjoyable,” he said. He went on to say that programs should take a more competency-based approach to better prepare students for their post-college endeavors.
Dr. Francisco Sy, director of the Office of Community-Based Participatory Research and Collaboration at the NIH/National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), took a moment to educate the audience on the NIH grant process and how to best navigate their grant application process. But the day’s real winner was Dr. Erin Wilson’s presentation, “HIV Among Trans-Female Youth: What We Now Know and Directions for Research and Prevention.” Dr. Wilson, who is a former NIMHD Loan Repayment Program (LRP) recipient and research scientist currently with the AIDS Office at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, quickly (due to time constraints) spoke on her ground-breaking NIH-funded research on the social determinants of health that led to high HIV-infection rates for transgender female youth in Los Angeles.
The statistics Dr. Wilson reported were pretty staggering. She prefaced much of her presentation by saying her studies were very specific to L.A. and she had no research to show that this was reflective of the national transgender female population. She reported finding that transgender females in L.A. were 34 times more likely to contact HIV than the general population and at the time of her study nearly 70 percent of transgender female youth in L.A. participated in sex work. As a result of her work The SHINE Study was created, the first longitudinal study of trans*female youth that still continues today. Though nearly 40 percent of transgender females in L.A. are living with HIV only 5 percent are youth. “We have a great opportunity to get ahead of this disparity and create some real change,” she said.
That’s all for today my friends. Check back tomorrow for a full report on Day 3 of the Baldwin Wallace University LGBTI Health Research Conference (#BWLGBTI)!