October 15th Marks the 8th National Latino AIDS Awareness Day
Today, October 15th, marks the eighth annual National Latino AIDS Awareness Day. President Obama's recently-announced National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) marks a renewed national commitment regarding HIV prevention.
The NHAS has three primary goals: 1) reducing HIV incidence, 2) increasing access to care and optimizing health outcomes, and 3) reducing HIV-related health disparities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data show a fairly stable HIV epidemic among Latinos for more than a decade. Latinos represent approximately 16% of the U.S. population. They account for approximately 17% of new HIV infections and 18% of people living with HIV.
Latino are no different that other U.S. populations when it comes to how individuals become infected with HIV. As with all populations, most individuals become infected through male-to-male sexual contact. But heterosexuals are also at risk.
This year's theme for National Latino AIDS Awareness Day -- "Save a Life. It May Be Your Own. Get Tested for HIV." marks a call to action. HIV testing is critical in preventing the spread of HIV. It is critical to early treatment. CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 years be tested for HIV. Gay and bisexual men should be tested at least annually, and every three to six months if they are at increased risk for infection.
Those at increase risk of HIV infection include those who:
- Have injected drugs or steroids or shared equipment (such as needles, syringes, works) with others
- Have had unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex with men who have sex with men, multiple partners, or anonymous partners
- Have exchanged sex for drugs or money
- Have been diagnosed with or treated for hepatitis, tuberculosis (TB), or a sexually transmitted disease (STD), like syphilis
- Have had u
nprotected sex with someone who could answer yes to any of the above questions
Studies have shown a range of factors that may place Latinos at such high risk include a basic lack of awareness about the risk of HIV infection; cultural and socioeconomic factors like poverty and language barriers; and concerns about immigrations status. . Fear of stigma and discrimination may also represent barriers to HIV prevention and treatment, particularly among gay and bisexual men and people living with HIV.
It is important for the Latino population to be educated about HIV/AIDS. This education should include how to protect oneself from getting HIV
- Don't have sex at all (anal, vaginal, and oral sex).
- Only have sex (anal, vaginal, or oral) if you are in a mutually monogamous relationship and you have both tested negative for HIV.
- Use a condom every time you have anal, vaginal, or oral sex.
- Reduce your number of sex partners; this will reduce your risk of getting HIV as well as other STDs.
- Encourage all sexual partners to get tested for HIV and make sure they tell you the results.
- Locate an HIV and STD testing site near you or from your mobile phone, text your zip code to KNOWIT (566948). You can also call 1-800-CDC-INFO for assistance in locating a testing site.
- If you are a man who has sex with other men or if you
engage in anal sex, get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B viruses.
Mark this National Latino AIDS Awareness Day by start a dialogue about HIV, get the facts, know your risk, and get tested. These are the first steps to protecting our communities.
For more information on HIV, please visit www.actagainstaids.org or www.cdc.gov/hiv.
To find HIV testing locations near you, please call 1-800-CDC-INFO or visit www.hivtest.org