AIDS Services Slow in Reaching Latinos; Number of New Infections Rising
April 22, 2002
Forced to work in low-paying service industry jobs that rarely provide health insurance, more and more Latino immigrants in the United States are overlooking serious HIV-related illnesses until they reach the last stages of the disease. Clinics and hospitals increasingly report disturbing anecdotes illustrating the trend. This year, seven of 10 patients diagnosed with AIDS at La Clinica del Pueblo, a clinic serving Central American immigrants in Washington, D.C., arrived at near-death stages of the disease. "This tells us they probably became infected 10 years ago, and certainly, they've infected other people," said Catalina Sol, the clinic's HIV/AIDS program coordinator. Many illegal immigrants who suspect having the virus avoid testing or medical care, fearing that a positive HIV result will thwart any chance of gaining legal residency -- a strong possibility, according to immigration lawyers.Adapted from:
Latinos accounted for roughly 4 percent of AIDS cases reported in the District last year, up from 3 percent five years ago, according to the city's HIV/AIDS Administration. Latino AIDS activists said those HIV/AIDS statistics vastly underestimate the number of infections, chiefly because of insufficient testing and, in the District's case, only recent surveillance of HIV cases.
Nationally, Latinos account for 13 percent of the population but 19 percent of new HIV infections, the CDC reports. Some Latino AIDS activists said that clinics designed to appeal to the general population fail to reach many infected Latinos.
Latino HIV/AIDS experts cite a host of cultural barriers to educating their community about the disease. Among them is a dominant Catholic religion that forbids condom use and inhibits candid discussion of sex, much less homosexuality. Sonia Mora, head of Montgomery County's Latino Health Initiative, said there is a shortage of bilingual counselors and clinics in many communities -- Gaithersburg and Wheaton, for instance -- where the Latino population is surging. "The services aren't there, and some of these people wouldn't just walk into clinics if they were," Mora said, noting that her agency occasionally uses vans as HIV prevention and testing posts in heavily Latino neighborhoods.
04.22.02; Steven Gray
Report Says U.S. Minorities Get Lower-Quality Health Care; Moral Implications of Widespread Pattern Noted