Tori Cooper Becomes First Black Transgender Woman on Presidential HIV Council 

By: ShaCamree Gowdy 

For three decades, Tori Cooper has been using her voice in advocacy, and is now part of the most diverse government in history. 

Cooper, the Human Rights Campaign’s Transgender Justice Initiative’s Director of Community Engagement, has been appointed by the Biden Administration as the first Black transgender member of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, per NBC News’ Jo Yurcaba. The group was founded in 1995 to advise the federal government on HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment, and cure. 

RELATED: 10 Cities with The Highest HIV Rates 

“I could not be more proud to serve on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. We are honored and excited that the Biden-Harris Administration is recognizing the importance of including transgender people, especially Black transgender women, in this life-saving work,” Cooper said in a statement released by the HRC. “I am eager to advocate on behalf of all transgender and non-binary people, including all trans and non-binary people who are living with HIV. This work has never been more critical, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on PACHA to help bring an end to the HIV epidemic.” 

Research shows that at least 1 in 20 transgender women are living with HIV, per HRC. HIV is three times more common among Black transgender women and one and a half times more in Latinx transgender women. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study conducted in seven U.S. cities found that 42% of transgender women interviewed had HIV, with 62% of Black transgender women and 35% of Latinx transgender women having the virus. 

“We have to make sure that providers understand that as trans folks we have the same needs as every other community but also very unique needs as well,” said Cooper, as reported by Yurcaba. “Cisgender women don’t need prostate exams; trans women do. Cisgender men don’t need gynecological care; trans men do. And so, true HIV health care—through comprehensive and inclusive health care—includes all of those, and there are a number of different ways to get to that.” 

RELATED: Two Kansas City officers charged for assaulting black Transgender woman 

While racism is among the most significant barriers to HIV care, Cooper believes that a number of government policy recommendations, including low-barrier access to gender-marker modifications on IDs and routine health care check-ins, could help reduce HIV disparities among Black trans women.

Because PACHA focuses on policy suggestions, the long-time advocate and now council member expressed hope that these concerns will be resolved in the near future as more people are “given a seat at the table.”

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