Latinos living on the East Coast of the United States have the highest rates of HIV diagnosis, indicates a new report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Not only are the diagnosis rates higher than in other areas of the country, Latinos in this region are more likely to contract HIV through intravenous drug use.
According to UPI.com, the report indicated male-to-male sexual contact was still the primary mode of infection for HIV among Latinos, a truth evident in the data gathered from the southern part of the United States.
Not only did gay and bisexual men account for the majority of Latinos infected with HIV, the male Latino infection rate is three times that of non-Hispanic white men. Latinas also outpace non-Hispanic white women when it comes to HIV infection, being four times more likely to contract the virus.
“HIV continues to pose a serious health threat to Latino communities in the United States. If we hope to end the United States epidemic, we must stem the spread of HIV among Latinos—the nation’s fastest growing ethnic population,” Donna McCree, associate director for health equity at the CDC, said in a statement. “Each of us has a role to play.”
In order to bring awareness to the topic of Latinos and HIV, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have made October 15th National Latino Aids Awareness Day (NLAAD). With an increased awareness about the disease, the CDC hopes to work with local and government agencies to help address the HIV epidemic among Latinos.
The CDC reports Latinos, which make up 16 percent of the country’s population, accounted for approximately 20 percent of new HIV infections in the United States during 2009, the year when the most recent data is available. During that same year, Latinos comprised 19 percent of people currently living with an HIV diagnosis, and since the start of the epidemic, more than 18,000 Latinos have died from the disease.
HIV and ethnicity
To help combat the spread of HIV, the CDC has created a program called High-Impact Prevention, an initiative which will use “combinations of scientifically proven, cost-effective, and scalable interventions targeted to the right populations in the right geographic areas” to increase the impact of HIV preventative efforts.
The reason the program is considered beneficial for Latinos is because it is not ethnicity which predisposes this group to HIV. Instead, the CDC indicates challenges in communities; low HIV awareness; poverty; limited access to care; social stigma; acculturation; and homophobia all play a role in why Latinos are disproportionately affected by HIV.
“Fighting HIV among Latinos is one of CDC’s top HIV prevention priorities. We are working to ensure that every prevention dollar has maximum impact, and that our approaches to HIV prevention are as diverse as the Latino community itself,” wrote in a statement Kevin A. Fenton, MD Director, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Latino communities must work together to tear down the barriers that prevent too many from seeking testing, treatment and support,” he added. “And all of us owe it to ourselves to get the facts about HIV, honestly evaluate our personal risk, take the necessary steps to reduce our risk and most importantly—get tested.”