An international meeting of experts on HIV has called for transgenderism to be reclassified as a medical condition, rather than a mental illness.

The second International Experts’ Meeting on HIV Prevention for MSM, WSW [men who have sex with men and women who have sex with women] and Transgenders took place in Amsterdam in early November with 130 experts from around the world.

A report, called Moving from Intentions to Action, has now been published and calls for change in how trans people are treated.

It argues that trans people would then escape the stigma of mental illness that is frequently attached to them.

The report said: “Gender identity variance (transgenderism) should be reclassified from its current classification as a mental health disorder in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and the World Health Organisation’s International Classification Of Diseases (ICD).

“Instead it should be classified as a medical condition. This would provide a diagnostic category in the ICD that would accommodate the needs of those gender identity variant people who require medical care for their condition, but without the stigma attached to mental disorder.”

Professor Stephen Whittle, of Manchester Metropolitan University and trans group Press For Change, welcomed the move.

He said: “This is another major contribution to the very important, and crucial debate on whether simply having a gender identity and the desire to express yourself through it can be a mental illness.

“We accept that many trans people need the support of mental health specialists – but not because of their gender identity, but because of the rejection of their gender not just on a personal transphobic level but also institutionally and at the wider structural levels.

“Every one of us has a gender identity and look at any group of people and one can see a vast number of ways ordinary people express their person gender place – how they want others to know them. At their core trans people want nothing more than to have the privilege to do the same.”

Medical opinion once held that homosexuality was a mental illness. It was removed from the list of mental disorders by the World Health Organisation in 1990.