National Hispanic Heritage Month, which spans September 15 to October 15, is a time for our country to celebrate the rich history and cultural contributions of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. As this month comes to a close with National Latinx AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) on October 15, we must also reflect on the disproportionate impact of HIV in this community. Last year on NLAAD, we released Estrategia Nacional contra el VIH/SIDA: Actualizada hasta 2020, so that Spanish speaking individuals and communities could utilize the Strategy moving forward.
In 2014, almost 11,000 Latinos and Hispanics were diagnosed with HIV. That’s nearly a quarter of all new HIV diagnoses in the U.S. The rate of HIV diagnosis is four times higher for Latinas compared to white women and three times higher for Latino men than white men.
Closing such HIV-related health disparities is an important goal of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. To do so, the Strategy emphasizes the need for cost-effective, scalable HIV prevention interventions that prioritize communities that HIV especially impacts, such as Latino men and women. The Strategy notes the importance of building a culturally-competent workforce to provide quality HIV care and ensure patients understand the benefits of recommended treatment plans. The Strategy also addresses the stigma and discrimination that create barriers to HIV testing, prevention, and care services. Stigma towards those with HIV or at risk of becoming infected often intersects with stigma based on race/ethnicity, sexuality, and gender identity. To minimize some of the negative consequences of stigma for Latinos living with HIV the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed the Detengamos Juntos el VIH (Let’s Stop HIV Together) campaign.
The success of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy depends on engagement at all levels and across sectors. Latino-serving organizations have already accomplished so much. For example, the Latino Commission on AIDS (one of the co-sponsors of NLAAD) has helped empower the Latino community through programs that focus on the health of Latinos living in the Deep South, that elevate the voices of Latinos living with HIV/AIDS, and that engage Latino faith leaders in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Working together, we can continue to work to reduce the disproportionate impact of HIV on the Latinx community.