Opinion: Fighting for an AIDS-Free Generation

World Aids Day observed at the White House (Photo by Ted Eytan, Creative Commons license)

World Aids Day observed at the White House (Photo by Ted Eytan, Creative Commons license)

Sunday, December 1 marked World AIDS Day. The theme for 2013 is “Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-Free Generation.”

“Latinos make up one of the population sectors most affected by HIV and AIDS,” explained Bethsy Morales, Health Advocacy Manager at the Hispanic Federation and in charge of HIV/AIDS-related activities. “One of the reasons is that Latinos, on average, are less careful when it comes to using protection and protecting their sexual partners. Furthermore, not only do Latinos get tested for HIV at lower rates than the rest of the U.S. population – of course, we are always talking in terms of the average – but they get tested later than others, when the infection – in HIV-positive cases – is more advanced.”

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American healthcare watchdog, shows that Latinos comprise 17 percent of the population, but make up more than 20 percent of newly diagnosed cases each year in the U.S. That means 1 out of every 36 Latino men and 1 out of every 106 Latina women will receive a positive diagnosis.

Currently, the rate of HIV infection among Latino men is three times higher than for non-Hispanic white males. Among Latinas, that figure is more than four times higher than non-Hispanic white women. According to the CDC, 81 percent of recently infected Latino males had sexual relations with other men.

Since the start of the epidemic, more than 90,000 Latino men and women have died because of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), or AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

Eighteen years ago, the Hispanic Federation organized the LUCES coalition (Latinos United Against AIDS) to educate the community about HIV and encourage people to get tested.

“Getting tested is the leading weapon against HIV and AIDS,” said Guillermo Chacón, president of the Latino Commission on AIDS. “Infected people can use the test results to take precautions to avoid transmitting the illness, and can also receive immediate medical attention. And of course, the results dissipate fear and doubt for those who don’t have HIV, in addition to reaffirming the importance of protecting oneself and others.”

The Latino Commission on AIDS, which is part of the Hispanic Federation and founded the LUCES coalition, offers free HIV testing at various locations throughout NewYork City.

To receive more information on LUCES, member organizations and HIV testing, call the Hispanic Federation at 866-HF-AYUDA, or 866-432-9832, or visit the website at www.hispanicfederation.org

The Hispanic Federation offers information over the phone on the Affordable Care Act and how to obtain coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

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