Latinos Disproportionately Affected by HIV/AIDS, Less Likely To Be Tested, Treated, Report Says
Although Latinos are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, they are less likely to be tested or seek treatment for the disease, compared with non-Latinos, according to a report released yesterday by the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reports (Hernandez, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 7/25). The report, titled "Addressing HIV/AIDS... Latino Perspectives and Policy Recommendations," was released during a Capitol Hill briefing on Latinos and HIV/AIDS held yesterday by NASTAD and the Kaiser Family Foundation, according to a NASTAD release (NASTAD release, 7/23). The report is intended to serve as a "blueprint" for state and local AIDS officials and health care providers throughout the country to create better HIV/AIDS prevention messages aimed at Latinos, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 7/24). Although Latinos make up 14% of the U.S. population, they account for nearly 20% of the 40,000 new HIV cases reported in the United States each year, according to the report (Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 7/25). NASTAD Director Alberto Santana said that poverty, a lack of health insurance and the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS contribute to the high HIV infection rate and low testing rate among Latinos. He said, "What we have addressed [in this report] is that Latinos do not test. You have people who walk into an emergency room with symptoms and that is how they learn they have HIV." Santana added that another factor in the Latino HIV experience is unprotected sex "during repeated migration between the United States and the immigrants' native country," the AP/Chronicle reports. "What we are saying is that it has to do with the back-and-forth border movement," Santana said (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 7/24).
The report, compiled in collaboration with AIDS Project Los Angeles, offers 25 recommendations in six categories, including encouraging the development of Latino leadership and expertise in health departments; the expansion of public information and awareness campaigns and an increase in training; and consultation programs for Latinos about HIV/AIDS care and prevention processes (NASTAD release, 7/23). The current health care system is "ill-prepared" to address the ongoing epidemic, according to the report, which calls for a "broader" approach to HIV/AIDS prevention aimed at Latino communities, especially populations in Florida, New York and California, the Sun-Sentinel reports. Santana said, "The way you develop prevention messages for Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County, [Fla.], would be different from how you develop prevention messages to Colombians or Venezuelans just in terms of the language you use" (Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 7/25). "You have to tailor [HIV prevention messages] to the cultural characteristics and the idiosyncrasies of that particular community," Santana said. The report also calls for U.S. health care officials to offer HIV/AIDS treatment and testing to Latinos in the United States, "regardless of their immigration status," the AP/Chronicle reports. Santana said, "[W]e have people who are sick and infectious. What they can do is create a public health disaster" (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 7/24).
The Kaiser Family Foundation earlier this month released a new report that offers demographic characteristics, key trends and community perceptions on AIDS in the Latino community. The 36-page report, titled "Key Facts: Latinos and HIV/AIDS," offers a profile of the epidemic, including key statistics, information about access to and use of health services and perceptions about the urgency of the epidemic in the community, country and abroad ("Key Facts: Latinos and HIV/AIDS," July 2003).
A kaisernetwork.org HealthCast of the briefing is available online. In addition to Santana, other speakers included: Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.); Jennifer Kates, director of HIV/AIDS policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation; Donald Torres of the New Mexico Department of Health; Humberto Cruz of the New York State Department of Health's AIDS Institute; Felipe Rocha of the Texas Department of Health; Catalina Sol, director of the HIV/AIDS department at La Clinica Del Pueblo; Leo Rennie, director of HIV prevention programs at NASTAD; and Julie Scofield, executive director of NASTAD.