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HIV/AIDS and Latinas: What Does Gender Have to Do With It? Part 1

September 15, 2011

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Zayda Rivera: I definitely think that, if the medical staff at your facility can't speak your language, that would just add to the strife of finding out that you're HIV positive.

Bianca Lopez: Exactly. And that happens, and you would think that it wouldn't happen in New York City. Believe me, it does happen.

Zayda Rivera: Maria, do you find this to be a problem in Miami?

Maria Mejia: No, here in Miami, mostly everyone in hospital settings is bilingual. I'm bilingual, too. There is a big Haitian community here, so a lot of people speak English, Spanish and Creole. What I have found is that Latin Americans are the ones who are having the most difficulty, because they don't really like to go to support groups or there are not that many support groups like in the countries where they live. So they are in hiding looking to the Internet.

This is why I just created this international place where people who are infected and affected can go for information in Spanish. So people who are bilingual can pass along information from the United States, and I translate it for them. Right now, this is a big thing for me. I make videos on YouTube and I always make my videos in Spanish and in English. And my viewers tell me, "Please, do more videos in Spanish. We want learn. We want to find out. Please don't forget about us."


Zayda Rivera: That's really great. Because of the cultural nuances that keep Latinos in hiding, the online component gives them the resources they need without really having to come out publicly.

Maria Mejia: What's really great is that they start making their own little support system. And those who don't want to do it in person can stay in their homes and still feel part of something. Some people are too sick, but this way they can still build relationships with others and get information. I've even seen people get married. People are finding love, even though they feel like they're never going to find love again, just because they're positive.

Zayda Rivera: Oh, wow.

Susan Rodriguez: One thing I want to say about the Internet: A lot of our women, when they first come to SMART, have never turned on a computer. And we know that there's so much information they can get online, so we started having basic computer classes. Even if you can't afford a computer, people know that you can use the computers at the library for free.

Zayda Rivera: Right.

Susan Rodriguez: But they are not really teaching you at the library how to use the computer, so these computer classes that teach basic computer literacy are so important to women. Once they know how to get online, they do research and get the information that they need in the language that they need it.

Bianca Lopez: Our young people are really avid computer users, so we have a Twitter account and a Facebook page. We have to change our ways as a staff. And by the way, I need to make a correction: A quarter of our staff is fully bilingual. We also have a lot of our outreach materials in both English and Spanish. The only thing is that most of our computer work ends up being in English. Hopefully, maybe we can make that change and also do some bilingual blogging and have information available in Spanish.

But, as I was saying, we also conduct research here at the Adolescent AIDS Program and have community groups and one way to reach either Latina or African-American girls that lived in the Bronx was to use the Internet to recruit them. We have a Facebook page just for one particular program; unfortunately, we lost funding for this program, but they still keep in contact with us. Some of us are still Facebook friends [laughs]. And that's so important, to have media like this -- it's what we're moving to.

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Read Part 2 here.

Copyright © 2011 The HealthCentral Network, Inc. All rights reserved.

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This article was provided by TheBody.
See Also
HIV & Me: A Guide to Living With HIV for Hispanics
The Body en Español
More on HIV/AIDS in the U.S. Latino Community

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