US Health Service To Use GPS To Track Trans Women Of Colour

A government-funded programme will use GPS tracking devices in order to study environmental influences on HIV.

A person holding a phone with a GPS system on the screen.

A study by New York University, and backed by the National Institutes of Health in the United States, will use GPS technology to track the travel patterns of trans women, particularly women of colour in order to mobilize HIV prevention efforts.

The project, which will begin over the next few months, has received over $600,000 in government funding.

The study is looking to recruit trans women of colour between the ages of 18 and 55 in the New York City area. The participants will be asked to “carry a small GPS device for two weeks at five points over the course of two years”.

The women participating must not have any plans to move outside of New York until the conclusion of the project in April 2023. 

The researchers behind the project maintain that the study’s aim is to track the relationship between space and the spread of HIV among the demographic, with a view of implementing methods to prevent HIV:

“This project seeks to use real-time geospatial methods to investigate relationships between social cohesion and social capital within GPS-defined activity space neighbourhoods and social networks in relation to HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) uptake and adherence cross-sectionally and longitudinally among transgender women of colour in the New York City metropolitan statistical area followed over two years.”

The projects grant outlines the proposed outcomes of the study:

“From the GPS dataset we will know the travel patterns of trans women and therefore be able to identify optimal geographic locations for HIV prevention interventions.”

The academics have presented the project as a milestone within the field of study:

“The proposed study will be the largest GPS study of HIV disparities in any transgender population and presents a remarkable opportunity to study environmental influences on HIV.”

Trans women of colour continue to face systemic violence and political apathy in the United States. A recent report conducted by the Human Rights Campaign found that of the 22 people who died due to transphobic violence in the US this year, 82% of them were women of colour.

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