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National Latino HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) – Monday (October 15)

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Mayra E. Alvarez

Mayra E. Alvarez

Between September 15 and October 15, we remember and honor the great contributions and legacy of Latino Americans to this country. Their contributions are part of the fabric that makes up the rich diversity of this nation. But being a Latino in the United States also brings challenges in health and health care, including the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

On the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month, October 15, we observe the 10th anniversary of National Latino AIDS Awareness Day . This day brings sobering news for Latinos in the U.S.:

  • Latinos make up only 16% of the U.S. population but made up 20% of new HIV infections in 2009.
  • Latinos’ share of AIDS diagnoses is rising. In 1985, Latinos were 15% of diagnosed AIDS cases. In 2010, we were 22% of diagnosed cases.
  • Latinos are often diagnosed too late. According to CDC data , between 2007-2010, just over a third of Latinos (36%) were diagnosed with AIDS within one year of testing positive for HIV, putting Latinos at greater risk of poorer health outcomes associated with a late diagnosis.

The factors that put Latinos at higher risk for HIV are complex. Lack of access to health care is a serious issue for Latinos living with HIV/AIDS. Health insurance greatly improves access—but, according to the HIV Cost and Services Utilization Study (HCSUS), 24% of Latinos with HIV/AIDS were uninsured, compared with 17% of whites. Of those with private insurance, Latinos were about half as likely to be privately insured compared to their white counterparts (23% vs. 44%).  The diversity of the Latino community requires a diverse approach toward HIV prevention, testing, and treatment initiatives that focuses on specific cultural factors in local communities.

President Obama has taken decisive action to address these needs:

  • He developed the  country’s first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS), which set goals of reducing HIV incidence, increasing access to care and improving health outcomes, and reducing health disparities. The NHAS provides an invaluable roadmap for Latino communities trying to respond to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
  • The White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) actively reached out to Latino leaders to help develop the NHAS, and in July 2012, ONAP invited 35 Latino leaders to a White House event to discuss how Latino communities are implementing it. Feedback from that conversation was incorporated into the 2012 NHAS Implementation Report [PDF].
  • The Affordable Care Act is another part of the Administration’s response to the HIV epidemic.  By improving access to quality health care for millions of Americans, the Affordable Care Act will help reduce health disparities like the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS in the Latino community.  The new law will bring down health care costs, invest in prevention and wellness, and give individuals and families more control over their own care.  The health care law will expand access to affordable healthcare coverage to 9 million Latinos, increases the number of community health centers, and expands initiatives to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the health care professions—helping to meet key needs for Latino communities.

As we close out Hispanic Heritage Month, we can observe National Latino AIDS Awareness Day knowing that we have a clear framework and the President’s support to help us meet the challenges of HIV/AIDS in our communities. We can look back with pride on what Latinos have given to this nation—and we can look ahead with hope to the vision of an “AIDS-free generation.”

Comments

  1. Laura Bahena says:

    Mayra,
    Very nice article. It really brought more awareness to me about what Latinos are doing about HIV/AIDs! I really enjoyed your work.
    Thank you,
    Laura Bahena
    Network Coordinator
    Chicago CHW Local Network
    1436 W. Randolph Steet, 4th. Floor
    Chicago, Illinois 60607

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