HIV/AIDS is a significant health threat to Hispanic/Latino communities in the United States, affecting every segment of the country. According to the CDC, Hispanics/Latinos progress to AIDS faster than any other racial or ethnic group, with 42 percent being diagnosed with AIDS within 12 months after learning of their positive HIV status compared to 34 percent late diagnosis among white non-Hispanic and 35 percent among blacks.
In addition, the rate of new HIV infections among Hispanic/Latina women is more than four times that of white women, and the rate of new HIV infections among Hispanic/Latino men is almost three times that among white men.
Oct. 15 commemorates the 10th annual National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) — a national community mobilization campaign that was established in 2003 by the Latino Commission on AIDS in response to the devastating impact of HIV and AIDS on Hispanic/Latino communities nationwide. NLAAD unites the diverse Hispanic/Latino community in an effort to raise HIV awareness, promote HIV testing, prevention and education.
With no single Hispanic/Latino culture in the United States, the factors driving the epidemic in this population are as diverse as the communities themselves — socioeconomic factors, stigma, cultural factors, high rates of sexually transmitted diseases and higher rates of HIV — make up the complex catalysts driving the high rates of HIV/AIDS in the Hispanic/Latino community.
As a member of the Hispanic/Latino community, this issue hits close to home. All members of the Hispanic/Latino community should talk to their friends, family, partners, coworkers and neighbors about taking the test and reducing risky behaviors.
We all know that HIV/AIDS is a global and national problem, but as the US HIV/AIDS strategy reminds us, first and foremost — it is a local problem. There are approximately 25,711 people known to be living with HIV/AIDS in Miami and of that total number, approximately 39.7 percent are Hispanic/Latino.
The good news is that individuals for the first time ever now have access to a rapid in-home HIV test they can take in the comfort and privacy of their own homes, creating a testing option for those who may not seek testing due to fear of stigma associated with HIV in the community. Rapid in-home testing uses oral fluid by way of a mouth swab and provides results in just 20 twenty minutes. In addition, there are many other places to get tested including hospitals, clinics, community-based organizations and physician offices.
NLAAD is a perfect opportunity to encourage Hispanic/Latinos to learn more about HIV/AIDS and get tested to find out their status. By educating people early on how to protect themselves — and helping them learn their status earlier – we can reduce the number of AIDS-related deaths and sooner connect those who are infected to medical care.
Knowing your status is the best thing. In honor of National Latino AIDS Awareness Day, I urge all members of the Hispanic/Latino community to get tested. People can call 1-866-436-6527or visit www.nlaad.org to learn more about rapid in-home HIV testing and where to order the test.
Guillermo Chacon is president of the Latino Commission on AIDS.