Yadira Gómez, a transgender woman in Nicaragua, received training on HIV rapid testing and counseling and HIV and sexually transmitted infection prevention from the USAID PrevenSida Project. Photo credit: URC

At 31 years old, Yadira Gómez, is attending primary school and aspires to study a master’s degree in health to specialize in HIV prevention and treatment. Shunned from childhood by her family and society in Nicaragua because she assumed a gender identity different from the one she was born with, Yadira started her activism for the rights of transgender people 10 years ago.

Yadira received training on HIV rapid testing and counseling and HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention with key populations, such as men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, and people with HIV, from the URC-implemented USAID PrevenSida Project. “PrevenSida has given me all the tools to contribute to HIV prevention and to be a companion, counselor, psychologist, sexologist, and even friend. When transgender women arrive at mobile clinics and are treated by another transgender woman, they feel good, because I treat them with respect.”

Yadira’s leadership in promoting human rights and the prevention of HIV and STIs landed her recognition from USAID in 2017 for her work. She currently serves as General Secretary of the Union of Trans Domestic Workers and Various Trades (SITRADOTRANS in Spanish) in Nicaragua. Yadira works with people from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) communities and sex workers, meeting them where they are, in markets, bars, beauty salons, and elsewhere. “With all the learning I have had I went to another stage of my life. I never thought I would make it that far, from HIV prevention health promoter to a SITRADOTRANS board position.”

In November 2018, Gomez represented Nicaragua at the Conference of the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF) held in Tanzania. As the first transgender woman to attend IDWF, she had the opportunity to present on topics related to violence and harassment against women and men in the workplace.

From Yadira’s perspective, each experience lived has represented an opportunity to grow. Separation from her family, not enrolling in school, social violence due to having a different gender identity, unemployment – all have challenged her and pushed her forward. She transformed difficulties into a driving force to attain her dreams and help others with similar life stories.

Yadira is an example for behavior change among other transgender women. “When I share the knowledge that strengthened me at a personal level in relation to gender violence, stigma and discrimination, human rights, and HIV and STI prevention, I notice the change in the girls in their sexual practices, i.e., they negotiate condom use and use condoms correctly.”

Yadira considers the right to health care a human right. She continues her work as a health promoter to prevent the high rate of people with HIV in her community. “The majority of trans women do not make it alive to 35 years old. It hurts me to see how the trans population is affected by HIV and how my peers die young because of this disease. HIV prevention is key to guaranteeing the human rights of LGBTI communities. Wherever I go, I always identify myself as a promoter of human rights, labor rights, and HIV prevention. We cannot stop preventing.”