CAPE TOWN, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) -- South Africa will conduct its first integrated biological and behavioral survey on HIV in transgender women, authorities announced on Thursday.
Initiated and supported by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with funding from the South African President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the project is designed to identify the social, structural, economic and cultural factors that are related to HIV infection in transgender women, the South African Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) said.
The study will help better understand risk behaviors and practices related to HIV infection and onward transmission in transgender women, the council said in a statement.
The council will lead the survey, with support from various South African and international academic and civil society partners.
The survey will be conducted later this month in the metropolitan areas of Cape Town and Johannesburg as well as in the Buffalo City Metro in the Eastern Cape province.
"For the first time South Africa will be able to document the HIV prevalence in transgender women," HSRC's CEO Crain Soudien said.
The data can also be used to monitor the sequential stages of HIV medical care that transgender women experience from diagnosis to achieving the goal of viral suppression, according to Soudien.
"Our fight against HIV will gain traction if we continue to investigate, and understand, the significant behaviors, attitudes and perceptions which can contribute towards infection, effective treatment and support," he said.
Leigh Ann van der Merwe, CDC representative in South Africa, said that through this study the transgender community in South Africa will finally have a voice.
"We see this study as contributing towards our empowerment, especially because interventions will come from our input rather than being imposed upon us," Van der Merwe said.
The study is expected to contribute towards a deeper understanding of how this disease can be prevented, she added.
With at least 6.2 million people with HIV, South Africa has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the world.
The country currently puts 4.2 million people on antiretroviral treatment, the highest treatment rate globally.