On October 15, we recognize National Latinx AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD), a day dedicated to raising awareness about the disproportionate impact of HIV in Latinx communities in the United States, Puerto Rico and territories. This year's NLAAD theme, "Be a Superhero. Defeat HIV," brings our attention on each person's role in defeating HIV. At the same time it accentuates the need for the community participation -- as a team of superheroes -- that is required to defeat HIV.
When Latino Commission on AIDS founded NLAAD in 2003, we chose October 15 because it marks the last day of Hispanic Heritage month. As Latinx, it's important that we celebrate our heritage, and part of that celebration involves becoming proactive about the health issues that affect our communities, like HIV.
Latinx continue to be disproportionately impacted by HIV. In 2015, Latinx accounted for 24% of all new HIV diagnoses in the U.S., despite making up 17% of the population. Moreover, according to the most recent data available, Latinx are three times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than non-Hispanic white men and women. Between 2005 to 2014, HIV diagnoses among all Latinx declined by 4%. However, we are still at greater risk than other groups, and risk among Latinx subgroups varies greatly. For example, between 2005 and 2014, diagnoses among all Latino gay and bisexual men increased 24%, and diagnoses among Latino gay and bisexual men aged 13 to 24 increased 87%. Additionally, in 2015 one in five Latino gay and bisexual men were diagnosed with HIV late, when the disease had already progressed to AIDS.
Many factors contribute to these disparities. Some Latinx are hesitant to seek testing or treatment due to the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS. Moreover, Latinx immigrants may be afraid of disclosing their immigration status when seeking health services or not seeking services at all because of their immigration status. Also, poverty, limited access to health care, stigma, homophobia, transphobia, and language barriers can limit awareness about resources for HIV testing, prevention, treatment and care.
Today we have the tools necessary to address the HIV epidemic in our community. In fact, 9 in 10 new HIV infections in the U.S. could be prevented through early diagnosis, testing, and engagement in care. We must ensure that Latinx are tested for HIV as it is the gateway to care for those who are positive, and the gateway to a risk assessment for PrEP for those who are negative.
We can all be a super hero in the fight to end the HIV epidemic. Join us today and get involved:
- EDUCATE FAMILY AND FRIENDS: Share NLAAD's infographics, which highlights the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on Latinx.
- GET TESTED: An estimated 1 in 6 Latinx Americans living with HIV don't know they're infected. Learn about HIV testing, condom use, PrEP and HIV treatment, and then share that information with others.
- LEARN MORE ABOUT HIV WHERE YOU LIVE: learn about the epidemic's impact in your communities.
- GET INVOLVED: The Latino Commission on AIDS is working to promote HIV education, develop model prevention programs for high-risk communities, and build capacity in community organizations. Visit LatinoAIDS.org to find a community program near you.
- PARTICIPATE: Latino Commission on AIDS offers an opportunity to become part of NLAAD's national community mobilization campaign, have access to tools, HIV testing kits and social messaging material. Visit NLAAD.org to register your local NLAAD activity.
[Note from TheBody.com: This article was originally published by AIDS United on Oct. 12, 2017. We have cross-posted it with their permission.]