by Joe Siegel/TRT Reporter
On October 15, which has been designated as National Latino AIDS Awareness Day, AIDS organizations across the country held events to draw attention to the high level of HIV infection among the Latino community.
National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) was created in 2003 to unite organizations at the local level in an effort to help stem the tide of HIV/AIDS in the Latino communities.
Currently, Hispanics/Latinos comprise 15.3% of the U.S. population, (U.S. Census Bureau) but account for 24.3% of the new HIV infections in the U.S. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Since AIDS was first recognized, an estimated 106,000 Latinos with the disease in the United States, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories have died through the end of 2007.
Several factors, such as cultural norms (discrimination, language barriers) and familiar norms, act as obstacles to prevention efforts and thus contribute to the high level of HIV infection.
“Among individuals with diagnosed HIV infection, Latinos have the second highest death rate of all racial and ethnic groups,” according to Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.
Women of color, including Latinas, are among those at highest risk for HIV infection in the United States. Latinas acquired HIV at nearly four times the rate of white women in 2006 and were diagnosed with AIDS at five times the rate of white women in 2007.
“A disproportionate number of our clients are Latino,” said AIDS Project RI executive director Stephen Hourahan. “We’re seeing this with our own caseload. We are looking at ways to more effectively break down barriers for treatment and prevention in the Latino community.”
Rhode Island’s 2010 “Comprehensive HIV Prevention Plan” names Hispanic/Latina women who live in Providence and Kent counties as a priority population, as are Hispanic/Latino youth across the Ocean State.
Hourahan said the state’s Department of Health has provided funding for the agency which will allow APRI’s staff members to interact with Latina women and determine the problems regarding HIV treatment and testing for that population. The goal is to help Latina women overcome the stigma of being diagnosed with HIV and to provide better treatment, Hourahan noted.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local public health agencies, and Hispanic/Latino communities have increased efforts to address the effects of the epidemic. Initiated in 2003 by the Latino Commission on AIDS and the Hispanic Federation in partnership with faith and community organizations, NLAAD raises awareness of issues concerning HIV/AIDS with the Hispanic/Latino population living in the United States and abroad.
This year’s theme, Save a Life; It May be your Own. Get Tested for HIV addresses the important role HIV testing and prevention education play as a result of late testing realities faced by Hispanic/Latino communities. The CDC’s web site –www.cdc.gov – provides suggestions for how the Hispanic and Latino communities can address the HIV/AIDS epidemic.