Did you know that Latinos represent 16 percent of the U.S. population yet account for 20 percent of the NEW HIV infections reported? What does this mean? According to a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Latinos have the highest rate of new AIDS cases in the country.
According to experts the reason for this alarming rate of infection is that Latinos are not getting testing and evidently also are not engaging in safer sex practices. So, we have astonishing numbers of Latinos that perhaps because of our well known cultural aversion to medical visits and/or factors that include fear of discrimination, stigmatization, and for undocumented immigrants, fear of deportation – we are becoming infected and spreading this virus at a devastating rate.
Rocio Ruiz, Prevention Director for the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation in New Jersey states that one of the most important factors for stopping the spread of infection within our community is communication. Our community needs to become aware, share and discuss openly, and empower each other regarding what constitutes risky behavior. We need to become informed regarding ways to lower our risk of infection. Most importantly, we need to spread awareness about the need to get tested so that we know our status and receive treatment EARLY if we are found positive.
Daniel Leyva, senior director of the Latino Commission on AIDS has commented that “Latinos are more likely to come into contact with the disease, and less likely to treat it.” This is NO JOKE.
It’s time to take this seriously. First, learn where you can get tested by visiting http://hivtest.cdc.gov/ , you can choose to have this site translated to Spanish for your full understanding. This site is sponsored by the CDC and is a great resource if you have questions regarding lowering your risk, and protecting yourself and your loved ones. Being tested can be as easy as a mouth swab with results the same day.
Second, HABLA! We need to talk to friends, family and lovers about getting tested, and about using condoms to lower the risk of infection. Now I know for a certainty that we CAN TALK! So let’s get to it!
And last, but certainly not least – use and demand a condom! The use of a condom is not a 100 percent fail safe method of safety, but it lowers your risk of exposure and spreading the virus, significantly. Take time to become aware of risk factors like intravenous drug use, and engaging in any activity that involves a needle, like tattooing – learn ways to protect yourself and those that you love.
Let’s tackle these rising numbers of new HIV cases with knowledge and action. You can start by sharing this article on your Social Media platforms. We are a community and we have always done what it takes to empower and protect! This topic is not shameful. This topic can save lives. Pa’lante!
By Being Latino Contributor Veronica Pearman. Follow her on Twitter: @VeronicaPearman