Purpose: Transgender women in the United States face elevated rates of HIV and of substance use. Studies measuring overall or aggregate levels of substance use have linked use to increased HIV transmission risk behavior (TRB). Although intensive longitudinal studies in other populations have found day-level links between substance use and TRB, no study has yet explored such links among transgender women. This study aimed to fill this gap in the literature.
Methods: Utilizing survey and 60-day timeline follow-back interview data from a sample of 214 transgender women in New York City, we tested whether day-level heavy drinking, marijuana use, and/or nonprescription stimulant use were associated with odds of engaging in any sex (vs. no sexual activity) or engaging in TRB (vs. sex without TRB), adjusting for overall levels of use.
Results: Multilevel models showed that each of the three substance types was associated with greater odds of engaging in sex on a given day—and more strongly so for heavy drinking among those with higher rates of heavy drinking, and for stimulant use among those with lower rates of stimulant use. Only marijuana use was associated with greater odds of TRB on a given day, but only among those with higher rates of use.
Conclusion: These findings substantiate day-level links between substance use and engaging in sexual activity among transgender women, and importantly, between marijuana use and greater likelihood of TRB on a day when sexual activity occurs. This highlights the importance of addressing substance use for sexual health among transgender women especially focusing on marijuana use.