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World AIDS Day 2009
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On the Eve of World AIDS Day, the Latino Commission on AIDS Sounds the Alarm: Hispanic/Latinos Are Late Testers and Paying a Heavy Price

November 30, 2009

Latinos account for 19.0% of people living with AIDS. Photo: Yanira Arias
Latinos account for 19.0% of people living with AIDS. Photo: Yanira Arias
New York -- The HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to be a serious threat to the Hispanic/Latino communities. In addition to being a population seriously affected by HIV, Latinos face challenges in accessing health care, prevention services, and HIV treatment. Hispanics/Latinos in the U.S. represent 15.3% (U.S. Census Bureau) of the population but account for 19.0% of people living with AIDS and are reported to be 18.0 % of those living with an undiagnosed HIV infection (According to CDC figures for only 34 States, which do not include Puerto Rico).

Testing and Connecting to Care is Critical: As the number of people living with HIV continues to increase, reaching individuals at risk for HIV with culturally competent and linguistically appropriate prevention education, HIV testing and treatment is critical. Testing is the essential first step in linking people with HIV to medical care and ongoing support to help them establish and maintain safer behaviors. A substantial proportion of new infections in the U.S. are believed to be transmitted by those who are unaware of their HIV status, but studies also show that once people learn that they are HIV positive, most take steps to protect their partners. Additionally, data suggests that many people with HIV are diagnosed late in the course of their infection, when it may be too late to fully benefit from life-extending treatments. CDC data shows that Latinos progress to AIDS faster than any other racial or ethnic group with 42% being diagnosed with AIDS within 12 months after learning of their positive HIV status compared to 34% late diagnosis among white non Hispanic and 35% among blacks.

"Our challenge is to advocate and respond to the fact that more Latinos are likely to test late. The reasons include: limited access to culturally and linguistically appropriate health care and information, denial about HIV transmission risk, gender roles and safer sex practices," stated Guillermo Chacon, President of the Latino Commission on AIDS. "Being an immigrant in the current climate of discrimination is negatively affecting Hispanics/Latinos access to health care and services like HIV testing, these are barriers that we need to overcome," concluded Guillermo Chacon.

Late testing results in missed opportunities for preventing HIV infections and saving lives. The Commission wants everyone to understand that HIV testing should become a routine part of health screening. In the context of the health care reform the Commission advocates connecting everyone in need regardless of his/her immigration status with medical care and those living with HIV/AIDS with critical services and with HIV Treatment adherence education to enhance the quality of life for those impacted by AIDS. Nationally you can obtain more information about HIV testing or find a testing location near you by submitting your zip code at: www.hivtest.org or by calling the CDC hotline at 1-800-232-4636.


This article was provided by Latino Commission on AIDS.


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