In Observance of World AIDS Day, Latino Commission on AIDS Releases New Report

Today is World AIDS Day. With 33 million people still living with the virus and nearly 7,500 new infections each day, it is important that we take the time to think about the effect this disease continues to have on our communities. For Latinos here in the US as well as throughout the Americas, the AIDS epidemic is still a taboo topic. It is this silence and fear that continues to keep people from the education and treatment they need. According to a report recently released by the Latino Commission on AIDS in honor of the 20th annual observance of this day, the rate of infection among Latinos is about 2-3 times higher than for non-Hispanic Caucasians.

Tim Frasca, the primary author of the report, says that root causes of this higher rates of HIV among Latinos are obvious, “The answers from the Commission’s research are relatively simple – a lack of culturally and linguistically competent prevention and health care resources, distrust and lack of access to prevention and care providers given the anti-immigrant social and legal restrictions imposed by many States, a well organized commercial sex industry, and a complete lack of programs for Spanish speaking men who have sex with men.”

The theme for this year's World AIDS Day “Lead–Empower–Deliver,” highlights the political and individual leadership required to combat the disease. Juan Carlos, a 29 year old HIV positive blogger from Ecuador is trying to do just that. In his blog, he talks openly about his day to day struggle with his status and shares strategies about how he strives to lead as balanced and normal a life as possible. One of the things he frequently talks about is his health care and the importance of having a psychologist, “Personally, I think it's always good to talk with a psychologist from time to time, it makes the darkest days become lighter and helps us to better carry on our lives with this virus and our other problems.”

Although the commission focused its research on Latinos in the deep south, many if not all of these barriers to education and treatment exist all over the USA. These obstacles also have further reaching consequences for the health care of Latinos in general. Miriam Vega, PhD, Director of Research and Evaluation for the Commission says, “No one should delude themselves into thinking that the variables that are producing this HIV/AIDS emergency are not also affecting other areas of critical health care for Latinos.”