Sector Release
16 May 2018


Transgender people in the Pacific face several barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health services

Approximately 33,000 people in 9 Pacific countries and territories are estimated to identify as transgender or men who have sex with men (MSM), in a study conducted by the University of New South Wales and ASHM. The Pacific Multicountry Mapping and Behavioural Study, commissioned by UNDP Pacific under the Western Pacific Multi Country Integrated HIV/TB Programme included the countries of Vanuatu, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Kingdom of Tonga, Samoa, Cook Islands, Palau, Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Marshall Islands. Transgender and MSM were found to face several barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health services including real and perceived stigma within health care settings and from the broader community.

In 2017, as part of ASHM's Pacific Sexual Health Workforce Capacity Building Program – a joint regional capacity building initiative between ASHM and The Oceania Society for Sexual Health and HIV Medicine (OSSHHMthat provided clinical mentoring, training and resources to health professionals working in HIV, TB and STIs in eleven Global Fund-supported Pacific countries) – the development of Transgender Health Training for Pacific Health Workers was commenced with an Introduction to addressing transgender health needs.

ASHM along with Pacific partners the OSSHHM  and the Pacific Sexual and Gender Diversity Network (PSDGN) aim to reduce stigma in health settings and build the capacity of Pacific health workers to respond to the health needs of trans people. The training was guided by the ‘Blueprint For The Provision of Comprehensive Care for Trans People’ developed by the Asia Pacific Transgender Network.


What did ASHM do? Pilot of one-day Transgender Health Needs training well-received in Vanuatu

A piloted one-day training on transgender health was delivered on 11 April, 2018 at the WHO Conference Room at Vanuatu Ministry of Health in Port Vila, Vanuatu with 15 health worker participants comprised of medical officers from the medical department and TB, midwifes, peer educators, laboratory technicians and blood bank technician, nurses and representatives from Community Service Organisations, including the Vanuatu Women's Association, Family Health Association and Wan Smol Bag.

Excellent feedback was recieved:

  • "It’s hard to be a transgender in Vanuatu. It’s how they feel inside and show it outside. Defining gender to a community is very challenging. For them gender is male or female".
    – Jill Aru, Training participant
  • "The general feedback we got from participants was that the training was informative and helped to improve their understanding of transgender health issues".
    – Dr Dashika Balak, OSSHHM Trainer

ASHM look forward to continuing to roll out the training with our Pacific partners in other Pacific countries this year. ASHM fully supports actions which improve health equity for trans people in Australia and the broader Asia and the Pacific region.

Pictured above:  In April 2018, a one-day training was facilitated by Dr. Arun Menon (ASHM), Dr. Dashika Balak (OSSHHM) and Gillio Khaleezzi Baxter, Executive Director of V-Pride Foundation (a transgender organisation) to 15 participants held at the Vanuatu Ministry of Health in Port Vila, Vanuatu.


Find out more about: Remote clinical mentoring in HIV, STIs and Viral Hepatitis services available to health services in Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs)

ASHM and OSSHHM are able to provide the following services to Ministries of Health, NGO clinics and other health professionals in PICTs:

  • On-going remote clinical mentoring (email, teleconference and in some cases face to face), advice on case management of HIV, STIs and Viral Hepatitis.
  • Face to face clinical mentoring and technical assistance.
  • Training for Pacific health care workers on HIV and STI refresher training and an Introduction to Transgender Health Training.
  • Monthly online lunch time seminars on HIV, STIs and Viral Hepatitis for health workers.

For Ministries of Health, NGO clinics and other health professionals in the Pacific seeking more information:


Links to references in this article