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October 15, 2022 is National Latinx Aids Awareness Day (NLAAD).
This observance calls for raising awareness on the impact of HIV on Hispanic/Latino/Latinx communities and eliminating stigma.
NLAAD, first created by the by the Hispanic Federation and the Latino Commission on AIDS in 2003, is a good opportunity to feature the CDC’s Let’s Stop HIV Together (Together) campaign in English and Spanish, which is part of the national campaign of the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. (EHE) initiative and the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
“[The Together campaign] aims to empower communities, partners, and health care providers to reduce HIV stigma and promote HIV testing, prevention, and treatment,” according to the CDC.
The State of HIV among Latinos on NLAAD
Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic worsened access to HIV testing, care-related services and case surveillance activities in both state and local jurisdictions, according to the CDC.
This led to a 17% decrease in HIV diagnoses.
In 2020, Latinos made up 27% of new HIV diagnoses in the US, despite being 18.9% of the nation’s population. Only Black people comprised a higher percentage of new cases (42%), followed by White people (26%), multiracial people (3%), and Asian people (2%).
Most HIV cases in Latinos are among gay and bisexual men, according to ViiV Healthcare.
There are several reasons why this disparity exists, according to Dr. Philip Ponce, medical director at Kind Clinic San Antonio.
“I think there’s a lot of cultural factors that play in. There’s still this culture of machismo, and then there are some communities that are still quite religious. Acknowledging your LGBT identity and coming to terms with it is a little bit difficult, because you have these cultural factors working against you,” Dr. Ponce said.
Lack of healthcare resources is also an issue.
“In a lot of communities, especially along the border, there’s one doctor or one clinic. And so you may not feel very comfortable, due to concern for stigma and issues around privacy, going to that clinic or going to that doctor and saying, ‘Hey, I’m gay, I need STI testing, and I want to do PrEP,’” Dr. Ponce said.
ViiV Healthcare also reported on how gay and bisexual Latino men are affected by HIV/AIDS:
- Family and community are central to men’s lives and identities, shaping their health and wellness for better or worse
- Interruptions in care happen for many reasons beyond men’s control
- Anti-immigrant sentiment and anti-immigrant laws have a powerful effect on men’s health
- Men want diverse and response care that reflects their needs, identity, and language
- Resilience is activated through networks and services by and for Latino men, especially youth
“The histories of Latinx communities are colorful, multifaceted and full of life and celebration. At the same time, they are complex, intersectional and influenced by many of the challenges that too often disproportionately affect communities of color,” said Guillermo Chacón, President of the Latino Commission on AIDS, according to ViiV Healthcare.
How to Get Tested for HIV on NLAAD
CDC recommends everyone between ages 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care.
“The only way to know your HIV status is to get tested. Knowing your status gives you powerful information to keep you and your partner healthy,” according to the CDC.
There are different types of HIV tests:
- Antibody Test: Looks for antibodies to HIV in your blood or oral fluid.
- Antigen/Antibody Test: Looks for both HIV antibodies and antigens.
- Nucleic Acid Test (NAT): Looks for the actual virus in the blood.
To find HIV Prevention Services like testing near you, visit the CDC’s HIV Testing webpage.
Eliminating the Stigma about HIV on NLAAD
NLAAD is also an opportunity to reduce the stigma around HIV/AIDS, such as:
- Believing that only certain groups of people can get HIV.
- Making moral judgments about people who take steps to prevent HIV transmission.
- Feeling that people deserve to get HIV because of their choices.
In the Latino community, many face social and structural issues like poverty, migration patterns, lower educational level, and language barriers.
Discrimination can also be something that individuals living with HIV can face.
Stigma can be harmful to those living with HIV, as it could create a negative self-image and fear of discrimination within the healthcare system.
Latinos experience high levels of mistrust of the health care system. Lower levels of trust can reduce the likelihood of clinic visits and result in lower use of and adherence to antiretroviral medications.
Prevention and Treatment of HIV on NLAAD
Latinos can prevent their risk of contracting HIV.
Prevention strategies including abstinence, never sharing needles, and using condoms, along with HIV prevention medicines like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).There is no cure for HIV. Still, Moderna and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) recently launched the first clinical trial for an HIV vaccine.
HIV treatment can also be a challenge for Latinos.
“Some Hispanic/Latino people may not use HIV prevention services, get an HIV test, or get treatment if they have HIV due to fear of disclosing their immigration status,” according to the CDC.
Antiretroviral therapy (ART) involves taking medicine as prescribed by a health care provider.
HIV treatment reduces the amount of HIV in your body and helps you stay healthy.
The CDC also encourages individuals to talk to their partners and friends about how being on HIV treatment and having an undetectable viral load is also HIV prevention.
An undetected viral load means that the amount of HIV in your blood is so low it can’t be measured.
With an estimated 1.1 million people in the living with HIV in the United States, it’s important for Latinos to make healthy choices to protect themselves and others.
Improve Health Equity in Your Community
You can help create healthier communities for Latinos and all people.
Learn more about what health looks like in your community with the Salud America! Health Equity Report Card.
The Report Card lets you explore a variety of health-related conditions compared to the rest of your state and nation.
“You can share an interactive version of your local Health Equity Report Card to make the case to address existing inequities and strengthen your community’s ability to respond to and recover from disasters, so everyone has a fair opportunity to live their healthiest lives possible,” said Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of the Salud America!