Number of HIV Cases Double Among N.C. Latinos; Cultural Taboos Challenge Education Efforts
The number of new HIV cases among Latinos has more than doubled in Mecklenburg County, N.C., and all of the state in recent years, "worrying" health officials who say that "cultural silence and risky sexual behavior" could facilitate the spread of the virus in the future, the Charlotte Observer reports. The number of new HIV cases among Latinos in North Carolina has risen from 45 in 1999 to 113 in 2003. In Mecklenburg County, there were no reported HIV cases among Latinos in 1999, but 17 cases among the population were reported in 2003, according to the Observer. Experts expect more Latinos to be diagnosed as HIV-positive as the state's Latino population grows, but they are concerned with the "recent pace" of growth, especially because of the "numerous and complex" challenges in increasing HIV/AIDS awareness among Latinos. "Cultural taboos" prevent many Latinos from learning about, discussing or getting tested for HIV, according to the Observer. Latino men who move to the United States before their wives might engage in unprotected sex with HIV-positive men or commercial sex workers and then risk transmitting the virus to their wives or other women. Latinas may not be "empowered to ask husbands about affairs or ge[t] tested" for HIV, according to the Observer. HIV/AIDS still carries a stigma among many Latinos. "It's shameful. It's taboo. We don't have the same understanding about the disease as people here," Leslie, a Latina who requested that her last name not be used, said. As a result, local health educators and prevention workers are becoming "creative" with ways to educate Latinos, including asking cooks at construction sites and barbers in shops to hand out condoms and talk about HIV, as well as attending Latino festivals and events to provide HIV testing and condoms (Bolling, Charlotte Observer, 12/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.