Health and Health Care Access Barriers Among Transgender Women Engaged in Sex Work: A Synthesis of U.S.-Based Studies Published 2005-2019


Purpose: Transgender women (TW) are likely to experience job discrimination and engage in commercial sex transactions. As a group, they have the highest risk for HIV/AIDS. However, little is known about the health needs of transgender women sex workers (TWSW) in the United States and the structural and psychosocial barriers to their health care access. The objective of this systematic review was to systematically document these needs and barriers by using a framework approach. Methods: We searched PubMed, JSTOR, and Google Scholar for primary and secondary studies published in 2005-2019 that addressed the health of TWSW in the United States. We used a standardized data extraction form to gather data from eligible articles. The Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology checklist was used to assess study quality. Results: Fifty-three articles met the inclusion criteria, including mentioning health-related topics among TWSW. More articles appeared in recent years. Most studies collected data with convenience samples in urban areas. Structural barriers reported included transphobia, lack of pre-exposure prophylaxis targeted at TW, and lack of health insurance coverage. Psychosocial barriers included distrust of the health care system, self-esteem, alcohol and substance use, and mental health. Conclusions: TWSW have unique health care needs that are not being addressed due to barriers to health care access. More research is required to identify non-HIV-related health burdens and details about psychosocial barriers to health care access


Aggarwal NK, Consavage KE, Dhanuka I, Clement KW, Bouey JH




  • Determinants of Health
    • Stigma/discrimination
  • Population(s)
    • Women
    • Transgender communities
    • People who use drugs
    • Sex workers
  • Substance Use
    • Alcohol
    • Nonmedicinal drugs
  • Mental Health
    • Depression


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