Methods. Data for this study were obtained from 223 HIV+ transgender women of color (TWOC), 18 years of age or older, at two Chicago sites participating in a nine-site demonstration project funded from 2012 to 2017 by HRSA as a Special Project of National Significance (SPNS). Self-reported, ACASI interview data collected at baseline and six months were used to assess twenty-four lifetime CHCs derived from the WHO-CIDI questionnaire. These became the binary indicators for the latent class (LC) models. Covariate LC predictors included AIDS status (ever/never), silicone injection (never/not currently/currently), hormone use (never/not currently/currently), severe psychological distress (no/yes), and homelessness (never/< 1 year/> 1 year). Mplus 8.1 was used to estimate the LC model with a 3-step procedure to first estimate the best-fitting LC structure followed by multivariable regression of LC on the predictor set.
Results. The best-fitting LC model (BLRT=272.6. p < .001) had 2-classes designated as low and moderate/high probability contingent on the probability of having multiple CHCs with 26% of participants classified in the moderate/high probability LC. Participants in the moderate/high probability LC had higher probabilities of: skin problems, arthritis, hepatitis (all kinds), COPD, seasonal allergies, and pneumonia. Participants in both groups had high probabilities of STIs other than HIV, asthma, and dental problems. Among covariate predictors age (OR=13.8, p < .001), ever having AIDS (OR=4.0, p < .05) and severe psychological distress (OR = 5.1, p < .05) were associated with moderate/high probability class membership.
Conclusions. A substantial subset (26%) of HIV+ TWOC seen in primary care settings are medically complex and have a range of CHCs beyond those explicitly associated with HIV disease. The results suggest medical multimorbidity is common, corresponding to a need for routine screening for multiple conditions especially respiratory conditions (asthma, COPD, pneumonia), dental problems, and STIs other than HIV. Focusing on HIV-related care or hormonal treatment and its attendant cardiovascular issues could result in sub-optimal care for a population that has been disengaged from regular medical care owing to stigma, affordability, lack of training for medical personnel on transgender health, etc. Where possible, social workers working with transgender persons should encourage engagement in medical care while advocating for comprehensive as well as culturally competent care.