HIV/AIDS continues to affect the Latino community disproportionately, with more than 200,000 cases in the US attributed to this population. Puerto Ricans living on the Caribbean island have among the highest prevalence rates of HIV among Latinos, a pattern that is closely connected to the large and growing injecting drug epidemic in Puerto Rico. While intravenous drug injection practices have been studied in Puerto Rico, certain vulnerable populations and injection practices have been largely neglected. This proposal focuses on male-to-female transgendered persons (MTF-TG), who are generally absent from the scientific literature generated in Puerto Rico, and are at high risk of HIV infection. In addition to the fact that MTF-TG are embedded in an HIV epidemic that is mostly driven by injecting drug use, our preliminary studies show that they engage in body modification practices involving the use of illegal market hormone and silicone injections. Our community partners, who are conducting the only HIV prevention intervention with MTF-TG, indicate that members of this population often engage in self-injection practices during """"""""pumping parties"""""""" for the purpose of body modification, as well as during drug use. These practices have not been scientifically studied, nor are there focused descriptive studies of the social context, meanings, and practices of injection in this population. Therefore, our study aims to: (1) identify the meanings and practices of drug and hormone injection in the transgendered community in Puerto Rico;(2) describe and map the social contexts of drug and hormone injection in this population;and (3) document the relationship between drug, hormone, and silicone injection practices and risk for HIV in Puerto Rico. We will conduct qualitative interviews with 32 theoretically sampled MTF-TG;ethnographic mapping of the social contexts of drug, silicone, and hormone injection among MTF- TG;and surveys with 96 MTF-TG recruited through respondent-driven sampling (RDS). Led by a team of NIH- funded HIV/AIDS researchers with experience with transgendered persons and vulnerable populations in this cultural region, the study will yield important information on risk practices that have been overlooked in this community and will provide detailed descriptions of the social contexts in which they occur. This will help guide future pilot interventions aimed at reducing HIV infection and high-risk drug use and injection practices in this vulnerable group.

Public Health Relevance

This mixed-methods study will entail the first systematic documentation of the drug, hormone, and silicone injection practices among members of the transgendered community in Puerto Rico, as we have been unable to find other studies in the published scientific literature. The proposed research design takes into consideration the wide array of injection practices that are related to this community (i.e., drugs, hormone, and silicone use) while addressing these behaviors, their shared meanings, and the social context in which they occur. Furthermore, the propose study will HIV risk related to these practices. The results from the proposed study will serve to inform the development of interventions to reduce HIV risk behaviors among this community.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Study Section
Behavioral and Social Consequences of HIV/AIDS Study Section (BSCH)
Program Officer
Lambert, Elizabeth
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University of Michigan Ann Arbor
Schools of Public Health
Ann Arbor
United States
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Padilla, Mark B; Rodríguez-Madera, Sheilla; Ramos Pibernus, Alixida G et al. (2018) The social context of hormone and silicone injection among Puerto Rican transwomen. Cult Health Sex 20:574-590
Rodríguez-Madera, Sheilla L; Padilla, Mark; Varas-Díaz, Nelson et al. (2017) Experiences of Violence Among Transgender Women in Puerto Rico: An Underestimated Problem. J Homosex 64:209-217
Padilla, Mark B; Rodríguez-Madera, Sheilla; Varas-Díaz, Nelson et al. (2016) Trans-migrations: border-crossing and the politics of body modification among Puerto Rican transgender women. Int J Sex Health 28:261-277
Ramos-Pibernus, Alíxida G; Rodríguez-Madera, Sheilla L; Padilla, Mark et al. (2016) Intersections and evolution of 'Butch-trans' categories in Puerto Rico: Needs and barriers of an invisible population. Glob Public Health 11:966-80