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Community Healthcare Network’s 7th Annual Transgender Health Conference Focuses on Redefining Transgender Health

October 30, 2017

On October 26 and 27, Community Healthcare Network (CHN) hosted its 7th annual Transgender Health Conference, in collaboration with New York City community health plan Amida Care, the New York State Department of Health, and The New School, where the conference was held.

The conference focused on redefining transgender health as being deeply connected to socioeconomic issues and covered a range of clinical and social topics including access to health insurance, legal issues faced by transgender communities, health care for gender non-conforming individuals, and preparation for gender- affirming surgeries. The conference’s second day, organized by Amida Care, concentrated on information for licensed clinicians. Amida Care is New York’s largest Medicaid special needs health plan for people living with chronic conditions such as HIV and provider of high-quality comprehensive health care to its significant population of transgender plan members, representing 7% of its total membership.

People of transgender experience shared their personal stories throughout the conference. Screenwriter and actor Nyala gave a candid account of her experience during recovery after gender-affirming surgery, including post-op depression and learning about her new body. D’hana Perry, Transgender Health Care Coordinator at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, shed light on how undergoing gender-affirming surgery can strain relationships with partners and family members, and how having a social support network helps. Members of the community also spoke out during interactive breakout sessions, expressing concerns around difficulty accessing health insurance coverage for gender-affirming health care, being unable to find affordable housing, and lack of education and employment opportunities.

“The conference focuses the understanding of the journey of a person of trans experience—from the clinical obstacles they face to how they are affected by behavioral, societal, and even legal challenges,” said Freddy Molano, Vice President of Infectious Diseases and LGBTQ Programs, Community Healthcare Network. “Although amazing advancements have taken place, there is a need for much more growth in the clinical and societal understanding of people of trans experience, and our conference seeks to address just that.”

Bamby Salcedo, founder of the Los Angeles-based TransLatina Coalition, presented the keynote address around redefining transgender health. Transgender people have specific health care concerns and often face bias, discrimination, or ignorance when seeking medical care. Salcedo emphasized the need for programs that intersect health, stable housing, and economic security. She highlighted issues affecting people of transgender experience in the U.S., particularly trans women of color, including survival sex work and high rates of violence and murder.

“The HIV/AIDS epidemic has a disproportionate impact on the transgender community. People of transgender experience need and deserve access to comprehensive, culturally competent, gender-affirming health care,” said Doug Wirth, President and CEO of Amida Care. “We need to break down the barriers that keep health care out of reach for many in the transgender community, including violence, lack of employment opportunities, housing instability, and discrimination. This conference is an important, one-of-a-kind forum for ideas and solutions to address these disparities, and Amida Care is proud to be the lead health care sponsor.”

Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, Deputy Commissioner of Disease Control for the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, emphasized that HIV is a symptom rather than the root of issues with transgender health care. His presentation highlighted the importance of strategies such as supporting trans-led and focused community based organizations, holding culturally competency trainings, strengthening data collection, and promoting LGBTQ signage and awareness campaigns to advance transgender health.

Other presenters included NYC Council Member Corey Johnson; representatives from the AIDS Institute and Bureau of HIV Prevention and Control; Mt. Sinai Medical Center; Amida Care; and experts in clinical, behavioral, and legal care for transgender individuals, among others. Presentations raised the importance of access to a full continuum of holistic health care for the transgender community, going beyond access to treatment and medications and addressing the issues that affect a person’s ability to live a healthy and authentic life.