Stamford, Conn., Officials Concerned About HIV/AIDS Among Hispanics
HIV/AIDS advocates in Stamford, Conn., are expressing concern about HIV/AIDS cases among Hispanics and how to effectively target outreach efforts toward the community, the Stamford Advocate reports.
As of June, 118 Hispanics in Stamford were living with HIV/AIDS, according to the Stamford Health Department. Hispanics make up 22.3% of all current HIV/AIDS cases in the city and 19.7% of the population, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. In nearby Norwalk, Conn., Hispanics represent 18.6% of people living with HIV/AIDS and 24.3% of the population. Nationwide, Hispanics make up 18.9% of reported AIDS cases and 15% of the population, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Debra Katz, director of Stamford's HIV prevention program, said that the figures are of concern because HIV/AIDS cases among Hispanics outpace their proportion of the population. Dennis Torres of Stamford Cares, a city agency that provides housing, financial and medical assistance to those living with HIV/AIDS, said, "I think nationally, the message hasn't reached this community."
Public health officials say that cultural beliefs, lack of health insurance and concerns about legal status are some of the barriers that prevent effective HIV/AIDS outreach to the Hispanic community, the Advocate reports. In addition, Hispanics' religious values and cultural taboos about discussing HIV/AIDS and sex have an effect on outreach, according to city health officials. Cedric Reid, a city HIV prevention worker, said Hispanic women are the most difficult to reach with sexual education outreach efforts because they are very modest.
Stamford health officials have made efforts to reach out to the Hispanic community by employing bilingual staff in HIV/AIDS prevention programs and conducting outreach efforts at churches and day laborer sites, Torres said. Torres added, "We help people if they have no food, if their lights are going to be shut off, all of the things that would keep people from getting medication," adding, "We remove all those barriers, because treatment is prevention" (Perez, Stamford Advocate, 8/24).