October 15, 2008
HIV remains a significant threat to the health of Latino communities in the United States. Latinos are becoming infected with HIV at a rate three times greater than whites; and while Latinos represent just 15 percent of the U.S. population, they make up 18 percent of those living with HIV/AIDS. Among Latinos, men who have sex with men are the most heavily affected by HIV, accounting for more than half of all new HIV infections among this population group in 2006. On this National Latino AIDS Awareness Day, we all must pledge continued commitment to address this threat against Latinos, the largest minority population in the United States.
Our nation's response to this threat must be as diverse as the Latino HIV/AIDS epidemic itself, confronting the unique cultural and socioeconomic challenges that place Latinos at greater risk. These challenges include limited health care access, language barriers, migration, discrimination, varied socioeconomic status, stigma surrounding homosexuality and HIV, and higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases (which significantly increase HIV risk) compared to whites.
The end of this epidemic can become a reality, if everyone with a stake in this fight -- individuals, communities, businesses, and governments -- unites to address this devastating disease that exacts a direct toll on the Latino community.
At CDC, preventing HIV among Latinos is one of our highest priorities for fighting the epidemic. We commit approximately 20 percent of our HIV prevention funding each year to support a broad range of HIV prevention programs for Latinos. We're working to increase HIV testing rates, ensure that effective HIV prevention programs reach those who need them, and research and develop new programs to meet the specific needs of a multi-ethnic Latino community. We are also working with community leaders to develop a Hispanic/Latino plan of action to accelerate progress and significantly reduce the toll of HIV among Latinos across the country.
Every Latino can help break the cycle of HIV infection by getting tested as a first step toward prevention. CDC recommends that everyone aged 13 to 64 get tested for HIV so they can take steps to protect themselves and their partners. This is especially important for Latinos, who make up the largest share of people diagnosed with HIV late in the course of infection, when treatment is less effective.
Latinos can also help break the stigma that surrounds HIV by speaking openly and often about HIV with family and friends, and by supporting those living with the disease.
Today, at events across the continental United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, thousands of people from all walks of life will come together to raise the visibility of the Latino HIV/AIDS epidemic and the urgent need for action. I hope that we will all use this day to make the theme of this year's National Latino AIDS Awareness Day a reality -- "United We Can: HIV/AIDS Stops Here."
To find out more about HIV/AIDS and where you can receive a confidential HIV test, visit www.hivtest.org, or call 800-CDC-INFO, a 24-hour hotline available in both English and Spanish. For additional information on HIV/AIDS, please visit www.aids.gov.