In observance of National Latino AIDS Awareness Day on October 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released today in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) the results of a new study, “Geographic Differences in HIV Infection Among Hispanics or Latinos — 46 States and Puerto Rico, 2010.” Study authors looked at the characteristics of Hispanics or Latinos who were diagnosed with HIV in 2010 and the geographic distribution of HIV in Puerto Rico and the 46 states with long-term name-based HIV reporting.
The report found that HIV continues to pose a serious health threat to Latinos throughout the United States. In fact, the rate of new infections among Hispanics is three times higher than whites (26.4 vs. 9.1 per 100,000). The report also underscored significant regional differences in the Latino epidemic.
For example, Latinos in the Northeast United States had the highest HIV diagnosis rates in the nation and are more likely than those in other regions to be infected through injection drug use. Alternatively, Latinos in the South had the highest number of new diagnoses and were more likely than those in the Northeast to be infected through contact with men who have sex with men. These data once again showed that Latino gay and bisexual men are by far most affected, accounting for more than 80% of all infections among Latino men. Moreover, Latinas (Hispanic women) also are severely impacted – with rates of new HIV infections four times that of white women.
On National Latino AIDS Awareness Day and every day, there are actions we can take to address these health disparities. This day is a reminder that we have the power to take control of our health and protect ourselves against HIV by getting tested for HIV, getting treatment and staying on treatment if infected, and talking openly about HIV to reduce stigma and shed light on issues that if left unattended will continue to feed the epidemic.
Federal Programs to Fight HIV in Latinos
The National HIV/AIDS Strategy calls for the prioritization of U.S. HIV efforts on highly impacted populations, including Latinos. At CDC, one way we are supporting NHAS is though High-Impact Prevention strategies that will help us attain a higher level of impact with every prevention dollar.
At the community level, CDC is reaching Latinos through a three-year demonstration project in 12 U.S. cities with the highest burden of HIV. The project is aimed at reducing new HIV infections and disparities in Latino communities, and linking those infected to care and treatment. Furthermore, CDC has funded 34 community-based organization (CBOs) to expand prevention among young MSM and young transgender persons of color. Eighteen of the 34 CBOs reach out specifically to Hispanic MSM. CDC has also expanded the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative to include national Latino organizations with deep reach into the larger Latino communities.
There is no single solution to the epidemic among Latinos, and our work must be on all levels, national, state, community, and individual. Together we can begin to tackle the many social obstacles, ensure diversity awareness is part of our response, and work to tailor programs to fit the need. As an individual, start the dialogue, get the test, take the steps necessary to protect your health and the health of those you love. As a community, tackle social obstacles that keep many from seeking testing, care, and treatment. Start taking control today and stop the epidemic in the Latino community!
CLICK HERE to read the article by Kevin Fenton, M.D., Ph.D.