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Multilevel Barriers to HIV PrEP Uptake and Adherence Among Black and Hispanic/Latinx Transgender Women in Southern California


Black and Hispanic/Latinx transgender women in the United States (U.S.) are disproportionately affected by HIV. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) reduces risk of HIV infection but PrEP uptake remains low among Black and Hispanic/Latinx transgender women. Between July 2018 and August 2019, we conducted individual interviews with 30 Black and Hispanic/Latinx transgender women who were prescribed PrEP through a PrEP demonstration project and 10 healthcare providers who provide PrEP services to transgender women in Los Angeles and San Diego, California. The interviews assessed general attitudes, experiences, and beliefs about PrEP as well as individual-, interpersonal-, community-, and structural-level barriers to PrEP uptake and adherence. PrEP adherence was assessed by collecting quantitative intracellular tenofovir-diphosphate (TFV-DP) levels in retrospect on batched, banked dried blood spot (DBS) samples. We utilized qualitative content analysis to identify themes from the interviews. Findings indicated the presence of individual-level barriers including cost concerns, mental health issues, substance use, and concerns about PrEP side effects including hormone interaction. Interpersonal-level barriers included the influence of intimate/romantic partners and the impact of patient-provider communication. Community-level barriers consisted of experiencing stigma and negative community opinions about PrEP use as well as having negative experiences in healthcare settings. Structural-level barriers included unreliable transportation, employment, and housing insecurity. Interventions aiming to increase PrEP uptake and adherence among Black and Hispanic/Latinx transgender women in the U.S. should employ a multilevel approach to addressing the needs of transgender women, especially the structural barriers that have greatly limited the use of PrEP.

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