Our Stories Study

Principal Investigator: Colleen Hoff, PhD

Website: Our Stories Facebook

Study Team

Charlotte Tate, PhD Co-Principal Investigator

Stacy Castellanos, Project Director

Cameron Michels, MA Interviewer

Vera Tykulsker, Interviewer

Sophia L., Recruiter

Jay Cripe, Recruiter

Lexi Adsit, Recruiter

Study Objective

HIV disparities in the U.S. continue to affect the most marginalized groups in this culture. A recent report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) on the health of LGBT people found that transgender men and women as well as ethnic minorities continue to carry the largest HIV burden and, simultaneously, have the least research focused on them. The IOM report therefore called for more research to improve transgender- specific health needs as well as more adequate examination of racial and ethnic LGBT subpopulations. Trans women (i.e., those whose gender identity is female but were assigned male sex at birth) represent alarmingly high rates of new HIV infections and HIV prevalence, and these rates are disproportionately higher for African-American and Latina trans women than White trans women. Trans women are particularly vulnerable to other risk factors such as commercial sex work, mental health problems, substance abuse and incarceration. Similarly, trans men (i.e., those whose gender identity is male but were assigned female sex at birth) also carry some of the HIV burden, but only a small portion of research has examined the behavioral risk factors for this population, even after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has called for more research on this population. Despite these national directives, little research has been done to address significant vulnerabilities among trans women and men overall, and those with ethnic minority identities specifically, or to develop interventions to reverse these trends.


Prior research among trans women found that rates of unprotected vaginal and anal intercourse were higher with primary partners versus casual or commercial male sex partners. Some reasons for having unprotected sex included a desire to validate one’s gender and feel emotionally close to their partner. However, little is known about dyadic factors associated with sexual risk. Trans men also report high risk sexual behavior with male partners. HIV incidence rates are lower than for trans women but they are increasing. This study will explore potential protective factors as well as risk factors at play for trans men and women in primary relationships with cisgender men. The term cisgender (cis) refers to those whose gender identities are the same as the sex they were assigned at birth.


In recent years studies report high rates of new infections occurring within male couples. Dr. Hoff and others, have identified important relationship factors associated with sexual risk among male couples. Specifically, her on-going studies of racially diverse cis gay male couples (R01MH089276; R01MH075598) have identified that positive relationship factors (i.e., satisfaction, intimacy, satisfaction with agreement) and parity in the relationship are associated with less risk with outside partners. Building on previous research by the PI, this study will explore relationship-based risk factors at play for trans men and women with cis male primary partners (i.e., Trans Women Cis Male couple [TWCM], Trans Man Cis Male couple [TMCM]), all of whom are members of marginalized populations at high risk for HIV. We include cis male partners generally to include men who identify as both gay, bisexual, queer or heterosexual. The focus of the study will be to examine relationship factors associated with HIV risk for TWCM and TMCM couples. We investigate trans men and trans women because both partner with cis men, and many of the cis men tend to be gay or are considered MSM and at high risk for HIV.

Where we are now.

We are currently recruiting couples for this paid study throughout the Bay Area! Couples will be screened for eligibility via the phone or email. Once eligibility is determined, couples will be interviewed separately, but at the same time, at our offices in downtown San Francisco. If you are interested in participating please give us a call at 1-888-688-1777 or email us at stories@sfsu.edu.