The Trans Wellness Center (TWC) is a first-of-its-kind resource and service center for transgender and non-binary individuals in Los Angeles, CA. The TWC was created and is run by transgender and non-binary (TGNB) community leaders and allies, where six local organizations provide essential services (e.g., housing, employment, healthcare enrollment/navigation, mental healthcare, food pantry, clothing closet) for increasing holistic wellness and safety among the TGNB population. Dr. Erik Storholm will be partnering with the Los Angeles LGBT Center to implement evidence-based HIV prevention and intervention services at the TWC over the course of the next three years. The project is being made possible with funding from an implementation science grant through the California AIDS Research Program (CHRP) focused on ending the HIV epidemic in California.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is an effective and safe medication that has been shown to be among the most promising interventions for reducing new incidences of HIV. Currently, TGNB communities remain at heightened risk for new HIV infections, but there are currently few HIV prevention programs that are focused on integrating HIV prevention and HIV care services into a framework that addresses the specific social and structural needs of the TGNB community. With the CHRP grant, Dr. Storholm will expand services at the TWC to include clinical, HIV testing, PrEP navigation and tracking, and onsite PrEP pharmacy services over the course of the three-year study. The first year of the program will be focused on working with LGBT Center and TWC staff and leadership to obtain approvals for offering clinical and pharmacy services onsite at the TWC, while simultaneously working on community buy-in with extensive outreach via social media and community groups. Year two will focus on service implementation and capacity building, while the final year will focus on sustainment of the Trans PrEP program in order to make sure the program will continue after the 3-year CHRP funding cycle is complete.
By bringing PrEP to the TWC, Dr. Storholm hopes to reduce some of the structural barriers (e.g., transportation, insurance coverage, stigmatization) TGNB people experience when accessing PrEP services in other settings. TGNB communities remain among those at highest risk for HIV and it is essential to integrate PrEP services along with other trans specific health and social services if the U.S. hopes to end the HIV epidemic. Through this three-year study, Storholm hopes these data will inform future HIV prevention interventions in community-based settings with TGNB-focused programs across the nation.