The National Institutes of Health is spending nearly $400,000 studying transwomen in Uganda.
A new grant worth $163,996 was awarded just six days into the Trump administration, continuing a project that was initially awarded in April 2016.
Leading researchers on the project say it is "problematic" that there is an "almost complete lack of research examining the HIV risk of sexual minority women and transgender people" in the African country.
"HIV/AIDS is a major contributor to morbidity and mortality in Uganda, with an estimated 7.3 [percent] adults HIV Positive," according to the grant for the study. "[M]en who have sex with men (MSM) bear a particularly high disease burden, with 13.2 [percent] living with HIV. Despite this increased risk, there is a considerable dearth of scientific literature documenting the barriers and facilitators to behavior change in this vulnerable Population. We need to better understand the HIV risk and protective behaviors of MSM and other sexual minority men in Uganda, if we are to develop effective Prevention programming."
The Center for Innovative Public Health Research, a nonprofit group based in California that focuses on technology-based research, is conducting the study.
One recent study released by the group found that gay people are more likely to be victims of "revenge porn."
"[T]he almost complete lack of research examining the HIV risk of sexual minority women and transgender people is also problematic," the grant for the Uganda study states. "Despite assumptions that sexual minority women are not at risk for HIV, compelling seroprevalence and HIV risk behavior data suggest otherwise."
The researchers argue that the few studies of transgender individuals in Africa have incorrectly classified biological men who think they are women as men in scientific research.
"[O]f the handful of studies that have been published on African transgender people, all but one included these women under the rubric of [men who have sex with men] MSM," the grant states. "Individuals who self-identify as women should not be classified in research as men."
The researchers added that the "lack of research including transgender men in Uganda is concerning."
"Given the invisibility of the sexual and gender minority (SGM) populations in Uganda fueled by stigma, Discrimination, and anti-gay laws, what little is known is largely based upon data collected in Kampala," the grant states.
The goals of the study include a comprehensive survey of HIV risks facing sexual and gender minorities in Uganda to find online and text message interventions for this population.
The study is also conducting focus groups to "identify sexual decision-making behavior" and "salient language to query sexual and gender identity."
The project has received $393,790 since it began under the Obama administration. A grant worth $163,996 for the second year of the study, which is set to continue through January 2018, was issued on Jan. 26, 2017.