New Jersey Government Officials, AIDS Advocates Attend First State Conference on AIDS in Latino Communities
The Elizabeth, N.J.-based Latino social service agency PROCEED, the Hispanic Directors Association of New Jersey and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services on Thursday and Friday held the state's first conference on HIV/AIDS in Latino communities, the North Jersey Herald News reports. About 300 people attended the conference, which included sessions on cultural issues in health care, pregnancy and HIV and safe-sex skills for Latinas. Although Latinos represent 13% of the population of New Jersey, they represent 21% of all HIV/AIDS cases in the state, Dr. Clifton Lacy, the state's health and senior services commissioner, said. In addition, although the number of new AIDS cases has declined among the state's general population, the prevalence rate among Latinos has remained steady at about 18%, Lacy said. Several speakers said that a single HIV prevention message would not be enough to address the disease among all Latinos. In addition, the speakers agreed that HIV remains a "shameful and taboo topic" in many Latino communities because the disease is associated with injection drug use, homosexuality and condom use, all of which are "frowned upon" in many Latino churches, according to the Herald News. Rev. Miguel Rivera, president of the National Latino Coalition of Ministers and Christian Leaders, said that it is "difficult" for conservative churches to address HIV, but ministers must discuss the disease in order to stop the spread of the epidemic, according to the Herald News. Charley Ferrer, a Latina clinical sexologist, said that Latinos must use condoms and begin to talk openly about sex, masturbation and sexually transmitted diseases with each other and children (Feibel, North Jersey Herald News, 12/19).
Latinos Must 'Tear Down Cultural Mores,' Opinion Piece Says
Latinos must "tear down cultural mores that inhibit us from open discussion" of sex and HIV/AIDS, Juleyka Lantigua, a freelance journalist, writes in a Houston Chronicle opinion piece. Latinas who speak openly about sex are often seen as "loose or promiscuous," an attitude that "leaves little room for a woman to make demands regarding her sexual health," Lantigua says. In addition, it is "condoned for [Latino] men, including married men, to have multiple sexual partners," a problem that "hits home when men have unprotected sex with other women and then return to their wives," Lantigua says. She concludes, "We have to evaluate the role that our culture is playing in our own demise so we can slow down and eventually end the ravaging effects of HIV/AIDS in our community" (Lantigua, Houston Chronicle, 12/18).