Latinos Disproportionately Infected With HIV
HIV infection rates are 2-3 times higher for Hispanics and Latinos than whites statewide according to recent data collected by the Washington State Department of Health.
From 2001 to 2005, newly diagnosed cases of HIV infection among Latinos averaged 65 per year. Most (85 percent) of the Hispanics and Latinos living with HIV live in one of five Washington counties: King, Pierce, Yakima, Snohomish or Franklin. HIV disproportionately affects Hispanic and Latino communities nationally, as well. While these communities only make up about 14 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 19 percent of the AIDS cases through 2004.
Limited access to prevention and care, cultural and language barriers, and immigration status contribute to this disparity. Hispanics and Latinos are more likely than whites to be diagnosed during the late stages of HIV infection, or as already having AIDS. This suggests they are not accessing HIV testing or health care services through which HIV infection could be diagnosed at an earlier stage.
To address these concerns, public health agencies across Washington and the nation are working to better educate communities about improving these rates. Under the slogan, "'Despierta! 'Toma Control! 'Hazte la prueba del VIH!" ' "Wake up! Take Control! Take the HIV Test!" ' October 15 has been named National Latino AIDS Awareness Day.
"HIV testing plays a critical role in stemming the spread of AIDS," says Washington State Health Officer Dr. Maxine Hayes. "Knowing HIV status means you can make decisions to take care of your health and the health of those you care about."
The Washington State Department of Health helps fund agencies to offer effective, science-based and culturally appropriate HIV prevention interventions for Hispanic and Latino populations.
Healthy decision making starts with learning one's HIV status. National Latino AIDS Awareness Day provides an opportunity to get an HIV test and learn how to protect oneself and keep sex or drug-use partners from becoming infected.