Tori Cooper Becomes the First Black Trans Woman on the Presidential HIV Council

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Photo courtesy of Daily Advent.

It is no secret to anyone that health crises throughout the ages have disproportionately impacted communities of color. This is particularly true in the case of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

However, as is often the case in these situations, the numbers and data do not tell the whole story. For example, transgender people are 49 times more likely to be living with HIV, a 2016 report by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS revealed.

In the United States, specifically, the CDC found that racial disparities exist among trans women living with HIV. A CDC study of HIV prevalence among trans women in seven U.S. cities between 2019 and 2020 found that 62% of black trans women were living with HIV, while 25% of Hispanic/Latina trans women and 17% of white trans women had HIV.

That’s why the appointment of Tori Cooper, currently director of community engagement for the Human Rights Campaign’s Transgender Justice Initiative, as a member of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS is a historic milestone.

Cooper told NBC News she’s “absolutely elated” and humbled by the appointment and noted that one of her key priorities is to represent her community.

“One of many priorities I have is certainly to be a voice for trans people, gender-nonbinary people, and gender-expansive people, making sure that our voices are heard,” she said. “And simply making sure that all policies that we’re looking at are inclusive of folks and that the HIV movement takes a much more inclusive and diverse trajectory moving forward.”

With over thirty years of experience, Tori Cooper is a health and equity advocate, community organizer, educator, published author, and leader in the transgender and HIV communities. Over the past three decades, Cooper has navigated all levels of HIV service, from volunteer roles to serving as executive director and founder of Advocates for Better Care Atlanta, LLC.

Now, Cooper becomes the first black trans woman on the presidential advisory council, a position in which she hopes to address the many policy disparities that allow the well-being of many trans women to fall by the wayside and access to adequate gender-affirming and trans-competent health care is one of them.

“Cisgender women don’t need prostate exams; trans women do. Cisgender men don’t need gynecological care; trans men do. And so, true HIV health care — through comprehensive and inclusive health care — includes all of those, and there are a number of different ways to get to that,” she said.