Cultural Challenge: Conference Addresses Meth, HIV Among Gay Latinos
August 17, 2005
At the recent National Conference on Latinos and AIDS in Chicago, New York-based Latino Commission on AIDS (LCA) President Dennis deLeon discussed the threat of crystal methamphetamine use by gay Latinos and barriers to HIV prevention and treatment.
Understanding the impact of culture and family on sexual behaviors and attitudes is key to forming effective HIV/AIDS prevention messages to Latinos. "Gender scripts can impact on how you promote HIV testing and prevention," said deLeon. "Family scripts impact a whole range of drug use and sexual behaviors. ... For Latino men who have sex with men [MSM], sexual silence imposed by the family is an important factor in HIV. The silence built of fear of disclosure leads drug-using Latino men and women and Latino [MSM] to engage in more risky sexual behavior in unsafe venues."
Many gay Latinos who emigrate to the United States often come alone, said deLeon, a factor that can lead to high-risk behaviors. They may struggle with what seem to be conflicting pressures to keep their Latino identity and fit into the urban gay communities they encounter. "For many gay Latinos crystal becomes the avenue for connecting to the mainstream gay community," said deLeon.
Citing a recent LCA report on crystal meth use among gay Latinos, deLeon said, "Studies show crystal meth use among Latino gay men is similar to white gay men. Yet there are virtually no campaigns for users or to prevent crystal meth use in Spanish." There is a critical need for crystal meth prevention and treatment programs designed by Latinos rather than just translated programs designed for white gay men, he noted.
In addition, deLeon encouraged support for National Latino AIDS Awareness Day on Oct. 15, which serves as a way to get people tested for HIV and to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in the Latino community and beyond.
Chicago Free Press
08.10.05; Garry Barlow