Transgender women are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, with an estimated 27% of transgender women living with HIV, and transgender women of color are particularly at risk for infection. Recent studies show that not having social support among transgender women living with HIV correlates with a higher number of unmet needs, including health care and employment.
That's why the Happy Hippie Foundation, in partnership with the MAC AIDS Fund, is developing and implementing a network of support groups in San Francisco and Los Angeles for young transgender women to openly discuss the challenges and triumphs of living with HIV. Support groups connect individuals with additional services, including employment, housing and food, while also providing a safe community.
My name is Destiny and Bay Area Young Positives has become a home away from home over the past 9 months. I started using the drop-in space to get food and to find a place to stay off the streets during the day. I would sometimes go to regular drop in group but stopped because members made fun of me being trans. Staff would stand up for me but I still felt scared at times so I stopped going to group and just come during the day the to the drop in space.
Two staff members told me about a group for trans members but I did not want to go at first. They encouraged me to try the group and if I didn’t like it I could stop going. I went and liked it because I met the group leaders and some other girls who made me feel part of the group. We talked about how we felt being trans and what who we wanted to be in the future. I have gone to almost all the meet-ups because I love most of the girls and we have a good time. The events are also fun and we get to hang out as a group and support each other.
The most fun group was the group where we learned some make up tips and got to dress up and be girls. I felt like was a girl more so than other day. Some of us took the bus that evening instead of walking home. We felt brave enough to take the bus because we would usually get teased or jumped. Everyone really liked that group.
Since coming to this group I have been good at taking my HIV medication because we made a deal to help each other by calling and texting to remind us to take our meds. I feel better and my AIDS numbers are down. The leaders got me into counseling even if it took a long time for me to agree. I am always excited about group and meet up and some of us meet up outside of group. I am really happy that I started coming. I always look forward to group.