In Costa Rica, many transgender women don’t have sufficient knowledge to keep their bodies healthy. And when a transgender woman gets an STI, she usually cannot afford a complete treatment, including checkups and medicines. She wouldn’t even have enough money for transport to the clinic. Our ‘stage’ often is the street, which is certainly not an easy and politically correct place. But this should not be considered a taboo. If we do, we lose all, both ourselves and the society as a whole. Many transgender women earn a living as sex workers, because there is a demand, because there are customers, and because they need to make money. There is nothing wrong with being a sex worker. For some people sex work just represents a step towards other working conditions in the future, rather than a goal in itself. Others decide to make a living in the street permanently.

I’m the spokesperson and president of Transvida, the only legally registered Costa Rican association working in the field of human rights of transgender people in the country and region. We aim to raise awareness among transgender women with regard to health issues. At Transvida I also work as a peer educator. I regularly go out in the streets to look for transgender women and provide them with condoms, which I get from the Costa Rican Department of Social Security. I talk with them about the need to have an HIV test. And when it comes to getting tested, I explain that it is advisable to have a test for the whole spectrum of STIs: gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, and many more.

They have taken everything from me. They even took away my fears

Moreover, I tell them about the benefits of a health insurance, how to get information, and what people they should contact to get an insurance. I want them to know that when you are insured, the insurance company will cover all costs of treatment. I also inform them about other options when they are not insured, like the vouchers of Asembis, with which they can access free health care. Many transgender women do not know all these things, and lack of information makes people sick. I know about these issues, and that’s why I’m working at Transvida, and meet transgender women. I’m grateful that CIPAC staff supported us when we founded Transvida. They helped us with the formal registration of our organisation. They also gave me information about access to health insurances and are strong allies when advocating for inclusive practices.

It is not easy to go out in the streets, but I am happy to do it. They have taken everything from me. They even took away my fears. I don’t belong to a group of skilled professionals though. That is why my story is not a lecture, but just a sharing of personal experiences. My only degree is the reality I face in my daily life. There are four words that define a woman: courage, intuition, strength, and capacity. And they all define me. I am proud to be the woman I am.

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