Policy-makers must address AIDS infections among Latinos
October 25, 2006
Our nation's political leaders must focus on the HIV and AIDS epidemic in the Latino population.
AIDS is one of the leading causes of death due to disease for both Latino men and women. Although Latinos make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 20 percent -- or one of every five -- of newly diagnosed HIV-positive individuals. And while the epidemic is even more devastating on the African-American community, the awareness of its threat to Latinos is not nearly as high.
Oct. 15 marked the fourth annual observance of National Latino AIDS Awareness Day. Many community-based organizations provided their local folks with health fairs and educational celebrations, but, with the exception of a few members of Congress and local leaders, the overall acknowledgement by our political leaders was insufficient.
Beyond the lack of attention is inadequate health care. Latinos are less likely to have access to health care than any other racial or ethnic group in the Unite States.
Many Latinos have jobs that do not allow for personal or sick time for doctor appointments. Others avoid the health care system because of language barriers. Some Latino men who have sex with men are often afraid of the stigma that goes with being identified as gay. And those who are undocumented immigrants fear being deported for accessing basic health care for themselves or their children.
Cruelly, Latinos tend to learn about their HIV/AIDS status in the late stages. As a result, they are likely to die within 18 months of being diagnosed, according to the National Council of La Raza's "Redefining HIV/AIDS for Latinos report.
This startling reality ought to be of concern to all of us, regardless of our ethnic identity.
Coral Lopez is communications manager for Bienestar, a Latino HIV/AIDS service organization in southern California. She can be reached at email@example.com.