AIDS Cases Among Latinos in Washington, D.C., Region Rising; Poor Access to Services Blamed, Washington Post Reports
The Washington Post today examines the rising HIV infection rate among Latinos in the Washington, D.C., region and the barriers to HIV/AIDS testing and care that the population faces. Latinos have been "among the slowest to mobilize" against HIV/AIDS, although AIDS-related illnesses are now the leading cause of death for Latinos ages 24 to 44, the Post reports. Latino AIDS activists say that available statistics on HIV/AIDS cases in the Latino population "vastly underestimate" the actual number of cases. According to the Post, a variety of barriers prevent Latinos from accessing the city's HIV/AIDS services. In some suburban communities where the Latino population is "surging," clinics lack an adequate number of bilingual counselors and clinicians. Catholic religion, practiced by many Latinos, and "[c]ulturally imposed machismo" prevent many Latino couples from using condoms or having open dialogues about sex. In addition, "more and more" HIV-positive Latinos, many of whom work low-paying jobs that do not offer health insurance, fail to seek medical care until they are already at the "last stages" of the disease. La Clinica del Pueblo, a D.C.-area clinic serving Central American immigrants, reported that 70% of its HIV-positive patients this year have arrived at the clinic "near death." Catalina Sol, the clinic's HIV/AIDS program coordinator, said, "This tells us they probably became infected 10 years ago, and certainly they've infected other people." Other clinics, such as the Whitman-Walker Clinic, the region's "most established AIDS service provider," now "invests heavily" in HIV/AIDS materials aimed at Latinos, as those "tailored for white gay men" do not resonate with the Latino population. Nationally, Latinos account for 13% of the U.S. population but 19% of new HIV infections, according to the CDC (Gray, Washington Post, 4/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.