Impact of HIV/AIDS on Hispanics in the United States
Hispanics in the United States include a diverse mixture of ethnic groups and cultures. With more than 25 million Hispanics, the United States has the fifth largest Hispanic population in the world, following Mexico, Spain, Argentina, and Colombia. Although Hispanics represent an estimated 10% of the total U.S. population, they account for 18% of the 641,086 AIDS cases reported in the United States through December 1997.
In 1997, 60,634 new AIDS cases were reported to CDC. Of these, 12,466 (21%) occurred among Hispanics. The AIDS incidence rate (the number of new cases of a disease that occurs during a specific time period) among Hispanics was 37.7 per 100,000 population in 1997, almost 4 times the rate for whites (10.4 per 100,000) and almost half the rate of African Americans (83.7 per 100,000 population).
A recent CDC study examined data from the 25 states(1) that had integrated HIV and AIDS surveillance from January 1994 through June 1997. This study showed that HIV diagnoses increased 10% among Hispanics between 1995 and 1996 (the most recent year for which overall trends can be examined). However, the number of cases reported among Hispanics was relatively small, since many states with large Hispanic populations have not implemented integrated HIV and AIDS reporting and were not included in the study. At the same time, HIV diagnoses declined slightly among African Americans (-3%) and among whites (-2%) in these states. Of the 7,200 young people ages 13-24 years who were diagnosed with HIV from January 1994 to June 1997, 5% were Hispanic.
Historical Trends in HIV and AIDS Cases
Most HIV and AIDS cases reported to date among Hispanics have been among men, although the proportion of cases among women is rising. Among Hispanic men, the majority of reported cases have been among gay and bisexual men and injection drug users. Among Hispanic women, most cases have been the result of heterosexual exposures, although drug use also plays a major role in the spread of infection to women. A large proportion of Hispanic women were infected through injection drug use or by having sex with an injection drug user. To reduce the toll of the epidemic among Hispanic men, women, and children, prevention programs must address the intersection of sexual and drug-related risks.
CDC's HIV Prevention Efforts Targeting Hispanic Populations
Since early in the HIV/AIDS epidemic, CDC recognized that Hispanic populations were being disproportionately affected and took a number of steps to better target HIV prevention efforts in these communities. The following is a brief overview of some of those activities.
Building Better Prevention Programs for Hispanics
While race and ethnicity alone are not risk factors for HIV infection, underlying social and economic conditions (such as language or cultural diversity, higher rates of poverty and substance abuse, or limited access to health care) may increase the risk for infection in some Hispanic-American communities.
In addition to addressing these underlying conditions, improved prevention efforts for Hispanics will require focusing on several key challenges. To reduce the infection risk for Hispanic women, efforts to prevent drug use and HIV must be better integrated. And to adequately address the prevention needs of Hispanic gay and bisexual men, homophobia must be confronted on a national, societal, and community level. Finally, we must apply lessons learned in designing culturally appropriate prevention efforts to developing effective programs for communities not yet effectively reached. Despite successes to date, this epidemic is far from over. As long as we continue to see preventable infections occur each year, we can and must do better.
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.