Latino Groups Declare HIV/AIDS ‘State of Emergency’ in New York Latino Community
Lawmakers, community leaders and religious leaders will join together at City Hall in New York City today to unveil the "State of Emergency Declaration on HIV/AIDS in the New York Latino Community." The declaration, crafted by the Latino Commission on AIDS and the Hispanic Federation, proclaims that HIV/AIDS has created a "health emergency" for the entire Latino community and is the number one "health crisis" for New York Latinos. The declaration calls on civic, religious, educational, media and community leaders to work at raising consciousness and resources to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Latino community (Latino Commission on AIDS/Hispanic Federation release, 11/21). Priorities for the Latino community include expanding needle exchange and drug treatment programs, increasing housing for homeless Latinos with HIV/AIDS, augmenting HIV prevention programs aimed at high-risk groups and ensuring that HIV-positive Latino prisoners receive "adequate health services in their own language." In addition, the declaration urges the government to allocate more resources toward treatment and prevention programs in Latino communities.
Statistics and Risk Factors
The declaration says that the New York Latino population is especially at risk for HIV/AIDS; statistics cited indicate that while New York has 9% of the United States' Latino population, it has more than 30% of national Latino AIDS cases. To date, there have been more than 35,000 AIDS cases among New York Latinos, an "overwhelming majority" of which have occurred among Puerto Ricans. More than 55% of HIV/AIDS cases among Latino men and women occur through intravenous drug use, and 40% of Latino women become infected through sex with a man who injects drugs. However, funding for needle exchange programs has remained "static" over the past eight years, and funding for drug treatment programs also has not increased much for the past 20 years. The declaration states that many Latinos incarcerated for drug-related offenses receive "inferior health care and other needed services" due to the lack of information in Spanish. While Latinos constitute one-third of New York's inmate population, they make up almost 50% of the AIDS cases in state prisons. In addition, more than 50% of HIV-infected immigrants in New York come from Spanish-speaking countries, and these individuals often have little access to housing, nutrition and "critical social services" available to legal residents. The declaration criticizes the state and federal government for "purposely den[ying]" funding for HIV programs, and blames service providers and community leaders for being "extremely slow to respond [to the epidemic] with understanding and resources." The declaration urges leaders from different segments of society to unite and work to educate the public about HIV/AIDS ("State of Emergency Declaration on HIV/AIDS in the New York Latino Community," 11/21).