Stigma, Social Cohesion, and Mental Health Among Transgender Women Sex Workers Living With HIV in the Dominican Republic

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Stigma and Health








Dominican Republic; HIV; mental health; stigma; transgender


Globally, transgender (trans) women experience pervasive stigma, which contributes to health inequities across multiple mental health outcomes. While trans stigma has been associated with increased mental health challenges, less is known about how stigma related to sex work and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) affect mental health. Social cohesion may ameliorate the negative health consequences of stigma, but little is known about how social cohesion is associated with mental health among trans women. Using crosssectional survey data collected in 2019 among 100 trans women sex workers living with HIV in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, we examined associations between stigma (related to HIV, sex work, and trans identity), social cohesion, and depression and anxiety symptoms. In unadjusted models, enacted and internalized sex work stigma were associated with greater odds of depression and anxiety symptoms and social cohesion were associated with less depression and anxiety. Resisted sex work stigma, which captured acceptance of self and work, was associated with lower odds of depression and trans stigma was associated with increased anxiety. In adjusted models, internalized sex work stigma was associated with increased depression (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 1.19, p =.018) and anxiety symptoms (aOR = 1.12, p =.021), while social cohesion was associated with reduced depression (OR = 0.81, p =.002) and anxiety symptoms (aOR = 0.086, p =.023). Findings indicate the need for interventions to focus on reducing internalized sex work stigma and promoting social cohesion to improve mental health among trans women. Additional research is needed to determine how to best measure the intersections between HIV, sex work, and trans stigma and their impact on mental health.