Multiple forms of stigma may increase risk for mental illness and cardiovascular disease among Black and Latina Transgender Women Living with HIV

The research, led by Tonia Poteat, PhD, MPH, PA-C, in the Department of Social Medicine is highlighting the ways that stigma and stress affect health outcomes for Black and Latina Transgender women.

According to recent findings[1], Black and Latina transgender women carry a disproportionate burden of HIV.  Among transgender women living with HIV, 44% are black and 26% are Latina.  Black and Latina transgender women living with HIV face multiple sources of stigma and discrimination based on their intersecting racial, ethnic, and gender identities, along with their HIV status. 

LITE Plus is a newly launched study led by Dr. Tonia Poteat in UNC’s Department of Social Medicine that examines the relationship between intersectional stigma, stress, and HIV comorbidities among Black and Latina transgender women living with HIV. 

The study is actively enrolling 200 participants who will, over 24 months, complete surveys and provide saliva and blood samples to give an in-depth picture of their lived experiences as well as measures of biological and psychosocial stress. 

This is one of the first studies to incorporate biomarkers of stress to document the biological toll of stigma on the health of transgender women.  Biomarkers of stress will be linked to mental illness and cardiovascular disease risk to highlight pathways between social experiences, stress, and HIV comorbidities.  These links will shed light on the toll that social discrimination takes on the health of Black and Latina transgender women who are living with HIV. 

Dr. Poteat and her study team will develop resources, based on study results, to inform affirming clinical care that can mitigate the effects of discrimination and improve health and well-being for Black and Latina transgender women living with HIV.


[1] Becasen, J.S., Denard, C.L., Mullins, M.M., Higa, D.H., & Sipe, T.A. (2019).  Estimating the Prevalence of HIV and Sexual Behaviors among the US Transgender Population: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, 2006-2017.  American journal of public health, 109 (1), e1- e8.

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