On Tuesday, September 20, I had the opportunity to speak at a briefing on Capitol Hill about National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD). The briefing kicked off activities that will culminate in the annual observance of the AIDS awareness day on October 15.
There was much discussion of data recently released by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention estimating that 20 percent of all new HIV infections in 2009 were among Latinos, although they only make up 16 percent of the nation’s population. The several speakers echoed the NLAAD call to action for Hispanics/Latinos to protect their lives and the lives of those they love by learning about HIV and getting tested.
The disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS among Hispanic/Latino communities is highlighted in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. My brief presentation highlighted the Strategy’s specific calls for efforts to intensify HIV prevention, testing, and care and treatment efforts among this population. I also highlighted some of the various efforts undertaken by the Federal government in response to the Strategy’s call to action. These include the 12 Cities Project, which is unfolding in the 12 U.S. jurisdictions with the nation’s highest AIDS case rates, and activities across the Department of Health and Human Services supported by the Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative Fund. With both initiatives, HHS is leveraging resources for prevention, care, and treatment for populations disproportionally impacted by HIV/AIDS, including Latinos. Importantly, these and other activities also seek to reduce the stigma associated with the virus that remains prevalent in many communities. Reducing HIV/AIDS-related stigma may increase the number of Latinos who get tested and are aware of their HIV status. In addition, a recent study of Latinos in the Southeast concluded that Latinos are more likely to initiate care later in the course of illness than are black and white persons. For Latinos living with HIV/AIDS, reducing the stigma can help them to seek HIV care and treatment sooner and remain in care.
Just as the Capitol Hill briefing did, the annual observance of NLAAD is designed to raise HIV/AIDS awareness among Latino communities across the nation, promote HIV testing opportunities, and connect people diagnosed with HIV to care and treatment.