October 15 is the eighth annual National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD), a day to take action to stop the spread of HIV in Latino communities across the United States.
Founded by the Latino Commission on AIDS, NLAAD focuses on how Latinos can work together to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in the community. This year’s theme ‘Save A Life; It May Be Your Own’ urges Hispanics/Latinos to get tested for HIV, which is critical to preventing the spread of HIV.
Getting tested for HIV is essential for Latinos as the risk of being infected with HIV is great. According to a new CDC study of HIV among Hispanics/Latinos in Puerto Rico and 37 states* in 2007, the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with HIV is 1 in 36 for Hispanic males and 1 in 106 for Hispanic females. The overall risk that Hispanics/Latinos will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime is 1 in 52.
This study, which was released this week, underscores the disproportionate burden of HIV among Hispanics/Latinos as compared to whites. In fact, Latinos represent approximately 16 percent of the U.S. population, and the latest CDC estimates show that Latinos account for approximately 17 percent of new infections and 18 percent of people living with HIV. Furthermore, Hispanics are becoming infected with HIV at a rate that is three times as high as that of whites. Gay and bisexual Latino men remain hardest hit.
We cannot allow HIV to gain a foothold in our nation’s fastest growing population segment. We must face head-on the range of factors that place Latinos at high risk and may prevent them from seeking needed HIV testing and treatment. Factors to address are:
• lack of awareness about HIV infection;
• cultural and socioeconomic factors like poverty and language barriers;
• concerns about immigration status, and
• homophobia and stigma.
Preventing HIV among Latinos is a CDC priority and our efforts are as diverse as the Latino community itself. We are working to not only develop culturally- and linguistically-appropriate prevention interventions, but also to ensure that those interventions reach every corner of Latino communities. To reach even more Latinos with HIV testing opportunities, we recently announced a multi-million-dollar three-year expansion of our successful HIV testing initiative. We are also building partnerships with leading national Latino organizations by funding these groups to help them make HIV prevention a core part of their day-to-day activities through our recently-expanded Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative.
Also, recent funding from the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention Fund is supporting programs in communities hardest hit by the HIV epidemic – many of which have large Latino populations. As the new National HIV/AIDS Strategy unfolds, HIV prevention efforts will prioritize populations hardest hit by HIV, including Latinos.
We know that our efforts will make a difference in Latino communities. Please join us and start addressing the factors that put Latinos at risk for HIV/AIDS.
* Thirty-seven states that have had name-based HIV reporting since 2005: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.