October 14, 2010
Tomorrow, October 15 is National Latino HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD). This year’s theme is Latinos Unite! Let's Stay Healthy! Get Tested for HIV! This observance, which is coordinated by Latino Commission on AIDS, in partnership with public health, faith and community organizations, provides an opportunity to draw the nation’s attention to the impact of the HIV epidemic on Latino populations.
Social determinants of health play a significant role in increased HIV transmission in the Latino population. The current high level of HIV prevalence in Latino communities and the low testing numbers increase the risk of encountering an HIV-infected sex or drug-injecting partner. Lack of health insurance, low socioeconomic status, poor access to health care, language and cultural barriers, as well as homophobia, stigma, and discrimination, all contribute to an increased risk of HIV.
According to current estimates, approximately 1 in 50 Latinos in the United States will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. Infection rates among Latinas are four times higher than among white women, and infection rates for Latino men are almost three times higher than white men. CDC estimates suggest that 81 percent of infections in Latino men occur among gay and bisexual men, with the largest number of new infections among men under the age of 30 years. These numbers are devastating, but our awareness this challenge is a first step to taking action to focus our response to reduce the toll of this disease in the Latino population.
Fittingly, NLAAD 2011 focuses again on the importance of HIV testing, which is more important than ever. About one in five Latinos currently infected with HIV doesn’t know it and more than half of Latinos have never been tested for HIV. CDC recommends that all adolescents and adults get tested for HIV in clinical settings, even those who don’t think they are at risk.
Fighting HIV among Latinos is one of the top priorities of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS). At CDC, we are working with our partners to ensure that every HIV prevention dollar has maximum impact to reduce the burden of HIV/AIDS on the communities most impacted, with strategies as diverse as the Latino community itself.
On this National Latino AIDS Awareness Day, we thank all who are uniting at the national, state, local, and individual levels to keep Latinos healthy and to confront the challenges, myths, and fears that place Latinos at high risk for HIV. In the spirit of this observance, let’s each take the time to unite in our own efforts and to begin a culture of caring to prevent and control HIV.
Kevin Fenton, M.D., Ph.D., F.F.P.H.
National Center for HIV/AIDS,
Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Jonathan H. Mermin, M.D., M.P.H.
Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention