The seeds of the Trans Women HIV Research Initiative (TWIRI) took root in 2007 with Dr. Mona Loutfy, Dr. Carmen Logie, Ms. Wangari Tharao, and Ms. Yasmeen Persad, a longtime community advocate. Together, they developed a Women Community-Based Research (WCBR) Project to learn about the issues women living with HIV were facing and wanted researched, conducting a pivotal focus group with 20 trans women. In 2011, Dr. Mona Loutfy launched the the Canadian HIV Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Cohort Study (CHIWOS) and Yasmeen--hired as a Peer Research Associate (PRA) for the study--led the way to ensure that the surveys were sensitive to the needs of trans women, and that trans women were purposefully sought out to contribute to transforming care for women living with HIV.
As the baseline CHIWOS data collection period neared completion, Ashley Lacombe-Duncan (a doctoral candidate at the time), Yasmeen, and Mona became a team and met frequently to discuss how to best approach the analyses involving trans women in CHIWOS. Informed by her own experiences and her connections to the community, Yasmeen led the research questions and analyses and first began presenting on the CHIWOS data related to trans women data at the International Workshop on HIV and Women in Boston in February 2015. Following this presentation, Mona sought out additional funding and received a Canadian Institutes of Health Research grant for PRA-led knowledge translation. Yasmeen was the first PRA to take this challenge on – TWIRI was finally born on May 1st, 2017!
What started as the vision of 4 people has blossomed into a large, diverse team that is taking a community-driven, interdisciplinary approach to optimizing the health and wellbeing of trans women living with and affected by HIV.