Florida: Hispanics Open Eyes to HIV Tests
July 1, 2003
More Hispanics in Florida are getting tested for HIV each year, using outreach programs such as Friday's National HIV Testing Day. But many Hispanics still are uneasy talking about HIV or getting tested, experts said.
According to the Florida Department of Health, Hispanics comprise 17 percent of the state's population and 15 percent of the more than 90,000 AIDS cases reported through December 2002. Of more than 28,000 reported HIV cases, 16 percent were Hispanic. While the percentage of Hispanics living with HIV/AIDS roughly mirrors the population figures, experts said reaching the community for testing is hard.
Besides lack of awareness, many Hispanics still think only homosexuals and prostitutes get the disease, said Marisol Bruno, community relations and marketing manager for the Orange County Health Department. Homosexuality is a touchy subject because it undercuts the macho-male image within the culture, said Bruno, who is Puerto Rican.
Many Hispanics are Roman Catholic, and some do not believe in birth control, such as using condoms, which also puts them at higher risk for contracting the disease, experts said. State and local organizations have expanded outreach and testing programs, said Marlene LaLota, program administrator in the Bureau of HIV/AIDS for the state health department. In conjunction with the national effort, county health departments across Florida offered free HIV tests Friday. The efforts have paid off LaLota said. More than 51,500 Hispanics were tested last year, up from 46,000 in 2000. Still, she said, more can be done -- especially to combat the stigma.
06.29.03; Erin Ailworth
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.