Hormone therapy & HIV


By: Ann Avery, MD, Infectious Disease Physician at MetroHealth Medical Center

HIV is an important issue in the trans community because a substantial proportion of transgender people are living with HIV (about a third of transgender women are HIV positive, according to some estimates). Trans people who want to stay healthy as long as possible need to take their HIV meds every day while they’re on hormone therapy.

Studies have not found major conflicts between hormone therapies and HIV meds. Trans people should be able to stay on their anti-retrovirals while taking their hormone treatments.

There are some exceptions because everybody is different and meds don’t always interact the same way from one person to the next. But overall, anti-retrovirals and hormone therapies are essentially compatible.

Getting the Right Kind of Care


If you’re transgender and HIV-positive, one of the biggest challenges is finding the right doctor to supervise your care. Trans people can sometimes face persistent stigmatization and isolation making HIV just one more weight on an individual’s shoulders.

Some doctors haven’t been schooled in health issues specific to trans people. And some lack a distinct specialty in HIV treatment. These two forces could make it difficult to get the care you need, but it’s more than possible to find a good doc for your HIV care.

If you run into a bad situation with a health professional, be determined, patient, and unruffled by their discriminatory behavior. It’s important to be polite and avoid being confrontational, but you still need to be firm about getting proper medical care. In smaller towns, it may take longer to find a caring and understanding doctor. It’s important not to give up.

Large cities, like Cleveland, have doctors who specialize in gender assignment and HIV treatment. Here at MetroHealth, we are proud to have Cleveland’s first Pride Clinic. Our physicians and staff are knowledgeable and passionate about LGBT health with an emphasis on the T!

Anti-Retrovirals and Hormone Therapies


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If you’re Trans, hormone therapy may be the one thing that helps you to look and feel like your beautiful self. Whether you identify as male or female, hormone treatment is one of the surest ways (short of reassignment surgery) to make your body reflective of your gender identity. It gives you control and nobody wants you to lose that feeling of control.

So it’s only natural to wonder if your anti-retroviral meds will have some kind of conflict with your hormone treatments. Good news is, they don’t!

Never forget staying on your HIV meds will keep your viral count low, help you stay healthy for years and strengthen your immune system.

It’s true, there may be times when your HIV meds and your hormonal therapy meds need to be adjusted somewhat to keep you feeling good. But no worries, your doctor can help you figure that out.

You’ve invested years of your life in fighting for the dignity and respect you deserve. Staying healthy and fighting off HIV is the surest way to protect that investment over the long term.

Getting Emotional Support


One of the best coping mechanisms is to join a support group for people living with HIV. These groups are structured to be accepting of everybody and non-judgmental.

Try to reach out to other trans people who are already getting hormone treatment and staying on their HIV meds. If you have internet access, look for groups and discussion areas for trans people living with HIV.

There’s no need to go through all this alone. Finding other people dealing with the same issues may give you the extra boost you need to stay healthy while you’re on hormone therapy.

Positive Peers is made possible through a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, HIV/AIDS Bureau Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) Grant to The MetroHealth System. Click here for more information about the SPNS grant initiative.
Positive Peers is a private app for young people living with HIV. Learn how you can earn rewards for your participation.