Lili Elbe was the first recorded trans woman in modern history. Undaunted by stigma and the risks of the operation during her time, her desire to achieve complete sex reassignment ended tragically as she succumbed to infection. Nevertheless, her pioneering spirit and tremendous courage and love for life is a testament to the indefatigable spirit of transgender people. It is in appreciation of this strength of character that LoveYourself embarks on yet another undertaking with the launch of the Victoria Health and Wellness Center in Malate, the Philippines’ first HIV testing and health clinic geared towards transgender people.
Who are the Transgender People?
Transgenders are people who have a gender identity or expression different from their assigned sex.
Transgenders are one of the groups most affected by the HIV epidemic, with worldwide HIV prevalence ranging from 8% up to as high as 68%. Transgender people worldwide suffer from high levels of stigma, discrimination, and gender-based violence and abuse. This has a debilitating effect to their health and well-being, leading them to circumstances that put themat higher risk of contracting HIV.
Discrimination in society leads a lot of transgender people to find a living as sex workers. Across the world, a relatively high proportion of the transgender population are engaged in the sex industry. A more worrisome fact is that condom use among transgender sex workers in the Philippines is low, with less than 40%.
Rates of unprotected anal sex among transgender women are also high. Stigma and discrimination, which lead to low self-esteem and disempowerment are seen as the primary factors for transgender people to have a difficult time on insisting condom use.
About the Victoria Health and Wellness Center
LoveYourself further diversifies its services with the establishment of Victoria Health and Wellness Center (VHWC), a clinic with services focused on the needs of transgender persons. Together with LoveYourself’s partner, the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM), VHWC will provide a gender-sensitive, holistic, and inclusive set of key health and wellness services to transgenders through its health clinic and counselling center.
Being a pioneer in transgender-specific services, VHMC will also be involved in awareness and advocacy activities aimed at educating the community about transgender people, as well as collaborations with scholarship programs and capacity building for transgenders and other organizations.
More than a transgender clinic, VHMC also welcomes clients of other genders.
Services and Location
There will be three levels of services to be made available at VHWC.
The first level of services (Level 1) is comprised of HIV screening and counselling services on transgender concerns, basic physical health check-ups, basic baseline laboratory procedures, screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and referrals to specialists.
The second level of services (Level 2) includes hormone management, advanced laboratory procedures, and pre-SRS (sex reassignment surgery) assessment and counseling.
The third level of service (Level 3) consists of high resolution endoscopy for neo-vaginas, specialized pap smears, and advanced medical procedures.
Through the support of LoveYourself’s partners, donors, and US-based non-profit organization Stop AIDS Now, VHWC will offer all level 1 and 2 services free of charge, while Level 3 services might come with a fee based on the procedures conducted.
The VHWC is located at Unit 812, 8th floor of the Victoria de Manila along Taft Avenue. The nearest LRT station is Pedro Gil, and it is located across Philippine Christian University. A soft launch is scheduled on December 13, Tuesday. The center currently operates for four straight days: 12NN-7PM from Saturdays to Tuesdays.