Texas Hispanic HIV/AIDS Cases Increasing; Cultural Language Barriers Affecting Outreach
HIV is being detected in Texas Hispanics at later stages than in other ethnic groups in the state, which increases their risk of spreading the virus and delaying treatment, the Dallas Morning News reports. There are more than 8,000 Hispanics living with AIDS in Texas, which has the largest recent influx of new Hispanic immigrants in the nation.
Thirty-two percent of HIV-positive Hispanics in the state are diagnosed with AIDS within 30 days after testing positive for HIV, compared with 24% of both HIV-positive blacks and whites. "This is a pretty significant difference," Sharon Melville, manager of the Texas HIV/STD Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch, said. "It's troubling. They are getting into care late and not getting diagnosed as early and we need to pay attention to that," she added.
According to the Morning News, there are a number of challenges in addressing HIV/AIDS among Hispanics in the U.S., including language barriers, limited access to health care, legal issues and cultural differences. Guillermo Chacon, vice president of the Latino Commission on AIDS, said a culture of silence, particularly among men who have sex with men, coupled with the failure of government agencies to address the issue, contributes to the growing number of cases among the group. AIDS activists contend that a cultural emphasis on masculinity and privacy double the stigma against MSM.
Chacon called for more bilingual outreach efforts and services for the Hispanic community. His agency recently released policy recommendations that seek to improve HIV/AIDS treatment access and raise awareness (Meyers, Dallas Morning News, 8/8).