“Save a Life, It May be your Own. Get Tested for HIV.” That is the message for this year’s National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD), which our nation will observe this Friday, October 15.
On NLAAD, we pause to remember those we have lost to AIDS-related illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) fact sheet, Latinos and HIV/AIDS (PDF 276 KB), since the beginning of the epidemic nearly 30 years ago, more than 85,000 Latino men and women with AIDS have died. Today we honor them, and all those working to respond to the HIV epidemic in Latino communities.
The epidemic in Latino communities continues to be serious. While Hispanics represent approximately 13 percent of the U.S. population, they account for an estimated 18 percent of people living with HIV in the U.S. In addition, a recently released CDC report found that approximately one in five (19%) men who have sex with men (MSM) in 20 major U.S. cities was infected with HIV. Moreover, 46% of Hispanic/Latino MSM were unaware of their infection, compared to 26% of white MSM.
We can and must do better. That is why we are working with partners across the country to implement the President’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS). The vision of the Strategy is that “The United States will become a place where new HIV infections are rare and when they do occur, every person, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination.”
The NHAS also supports our upcoming Healthy People 2020 initiative. The initiative, which will be formally unveiled by the end of the year, seeks to help all Americans achieve health equity, eliminate health disparities, and improve overall health. Specific goals of Healthy People 2020 will include, for adults and adolescents, reducing the percentage of new AIDS cases; increasing the percentage of people who have been tested for HIV; and, for HIV-infected people, increasing the percentage who receive HIV care and treatment. CDC recommends that HIV screening be a part of routine clinical care for all patients ages 13-64. Together, the NHAS and Healthy People 2020 can help us make a positive impact on the lives and well-being of Latinos/Hispanics in the United States.
On NLAAD, we reaffirm our commitment to responding to HIV in Latino communities, and beyond. Today, I encourage all Americans ages 13-64 to take an HIV test. To find your local HIV testing center, send a text message with your ZIP code to “KNOWIT” (566948) or visit www.HIVtest.org .