HIV/AIDS and Latinos in the United States

A little over a month ago, I wrote about the problem of higher than average rates of HIV among Latinos in the United States.  I’m finally getting back to this issue, with some new resources.

According to its website, the Latino Commission on AIDS (LCOA) is “a nonprofit membership organization founded in 1990 dedicated to fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Latino/Hispanic communities.”

On July 30, the LCOA released a report called “The Crisis of HIV/AIDS Among Latinos/Hispanics in United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands” (also available in Spanish).

This brief document (the English version is a little over 4 pages) gives a good overview of the situation, factors contributing to the problem, and recommended action.  It’s definitely worth reading in full, but I’ll summarize the main sections below.

Report Summary

The report begins:

HIV/AIDS in Latino communities within the United States has reached a crisis level.  Representing only 15.3% of the population in the U.S. and its territories, the number of Latinos now constitutes 22% of the HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed in 2006.  This disproportionate impact includes the large number of HIV/AIDS cases in Puerto Rico.

Needs

The LCOA calls the US government to dedicate more resources to study and address “the challenges that HIV/AIDS represents for Latinos,” and to consult the Latino community when making decisions on prevention and care.  According to the LCOA, the Latinos/Hispanics need the following:

  • Bilingual resources to encourage HIV testing
  • Initiatives to involve Spanish-speaking faith communities
  • Research on behaviors that put Latinos at risk of contracting HIV
  • More prevention and care services in rural areas, especially in the Deep South
  • Improved AIDS care in Puerto Rico
  • More attention to increasing HIV rates among Latino gay men
  • More and better services for Latinas
  • Reduction of stigma related to being tested and diagnosed
  • Ensure that “prevention messages, social marketing campaigns and health care services are available in both English and Spanish”

Concern and Data

The report notes that many Latinos feel that HIV/AIDS is an urgent problem in their communities, and many are concerned that they or their children may be at risk of becoming infected.  37 percent of Latinos “report having personally known someone with HIV/AIDS.

Although it is clear from available information that the Latino community has a notably higher rate of HIV/AIDS than the US population in general, accurate and complete data is relatively sparse.  This is partly because federal statistics are based on only some regions of the country, and some areas with high Latino populations (California, for example) are not included.

Existing numbers do show, however, that the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among Latinos in the US is “nearly two or three times that of non-Hispanic Whites,” and — most disturbingly — that “Latinos were almost three times as likely as non-Hispanic Whites to die of HIV disease.”

Issues of Concern

The LCOA mentions several “issues of concern” for the Latino community, beginning with transnational HIV infection, particularly “the cases of Mexican and Central American nationals that migrate to the U.S. for work and becoming infected with HIV along the way or, more often, when they reach the United States.”  Migrants are at above-average risk for contracting HIV for various cultural and lifestyle reasons.  There is a sad irony in the situation, as the report points out:

In the United States, it is often wrongly assumed that immigrants bring diseases into the country, as opposed to returning home with them.  But […] the United States’ HIV rate is 0.6 percent, twice Mexico’s rate of 0.3 percent.  […]  We must consider how many migrants have contracted HIV while in the United States.

The report also notes that “stigma and fear of deportation” endanger Latinos, especially migrant workers.  Other concerns include especially high rates of HIV among Latino men who have sex with men and late HIV testing (which increases the risk of unknowing transmission, and makes treatment less effective).

The report ends by calling the information it contains “a wake-up call to all” and calling for “immediate action, increased funding, and greater understanding.”

Other posts on this subject:
>> HIV/AIDS hits hard in Latino community (July 24, 2008)
>> HIV/AIDS and Latinos: Resources (Aug. 31, 2008)
>> Concern over HIV/AIDS among Hispanics in Connecticut (Aug. 31)

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~ by h.e.g. on August 31, 2008.

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