Tori Cooper is making history as the first Black trans woman to be appointed to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.
The federal government organization helps to create fair policy recommendations for people living with HIV and AIDS including legislature that provides prevention and treatment laws for the community.
Cooper told MSNBC that she built her passion for advocacy 20 years ago when she first began working with an HIV prevention program called Sister to Sister in partnership with the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The trailblazer explained that she and a co-worker tailored the initiative to “meet the unique needs of trans women.”
“That was the beginning of it, and it’s just been going ever since, full speed ahead,” Cooper added.
“One of many priorities I have is certainly to be a voice for trans people, gender-nonbinary people, and gender-expansive people, making sure that our voices are heard,” she said. “And simply making sure that all policies that we’re looking at are inclusive of folks and that the HIV movement takes a much more inclusive and diverse trajectory moving forward.
Cooper’s coveted role with PACHA couldn’ve come sooner. A recent report drawn by the Joint United Nations Program revealed some jarring statistics about transgender people and HIV. The group is “49 times more likely” to contract and live with the immuno-compromising condition.
For trans women, in particular, the data becomes even more complicated as racial disparities often impact those living with HIV in the U.S.
According to one CDC study, HIV prevalence among trans women in seven U.S. cities from 2019 to 2020 found that “62 percent of Black trans women were living with HIV, while 25 percent of Hispanic/Latina trans women and 17 percent of white transgender women had HIV.”
Cooper says there are “too many” gaps within policy laws that continue to enlarge life-threatening disparities for the trans community including lack of access to health care as well as qualified and “competent health care providers.”
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