Late Testing, Treatment Leads To Increased HIV/AIDS Prevalence

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Hispanics in Los Angeles County are waiting about twice as long to seek HIV testing and treatment as whites, leading to increased HIV prevalence among Hispanics, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports. According to the Tribune, 60% of HIV cases among Hispanics in the county are detected "very late," compared with 33% among whites.

Hispanics accounted for 50% of new AIDS cases in 2007 but represented 47% of the county's population, Paulina Zamudio, program supervisor for prevention services at Los Angeles County's Office of AIDS Programs and Policy, said. Zamudio said, "One of our biggest concerns is that Latinos aren't getting tested early enough." Rey Reyes, an HIV-positive Hispanic man who conducts HIV/AIDS outreach, said denial is a major barrier to testing among Hispanics, adding, "if we don't talk about it, it's not happening to us."

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Although HIV/AIDS programs often target injection drug users and men who have sex with men as high-risk populations, some experts say that HIV/AIDS cases among Hispanic migrant workers as a group are increasing. According to a study of 450 migrant workers conducted by Bienestar -- an organization that provides social services for HIV-positive Hispanics -- 26% reported having sex with female commercial sex workers and 5.5% reported having sex with men in exchange for money.

Victor Martinez, director of programs and services at Bienestar, said that a lack of health insurance or proper documentation often prevents Hispanics from seeking regular, preventive health care. "Health is a luxury," he said, adding that some Hispanics cannot afford to take time off work to visit a clinic. However, some organizations in the county are working to provide low-cost care to uninsured and undocumented patients, including those with HIV/AIDS. One such organization, East Valley Community Health Center, takes mobile units to bars, night clubs and drug rehabilitation centers to offer HIV tests (Kimitch, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, 11/10).

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