When Vargas came to this country she met a man, “He told me I was special, and I felt flattered.” She began dating him and they eventually moved in together. One day she came home from work to discover her boyfriend on the floor unconscious. She rushed him to the hospital where a doctor notified her that her partner had AIDS. “I felt a cold chill. I lived with him for three years and we never used condoms. Mexican women…all we know is if you talk about condoms, you are promiscuous, ” Vargas said, her boyfriend died four months later. With her immigration status making it difficult to receive the kind of treatment and counseling she would need if she found out she was positive, Rosalia was too afraid to take an HIV test. Dominguez says that this type of late testing is common but incredibly dangerous since it delays early treatment and increases the chances that a person might spread the virus. Eventually, Rosalia did get tested and found out that she was HIV positive.
The AIDS virus is indiscriminate, and the reality is that this epidemic should not be solely a Latino and Black concern. With the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City in full swing, the CDC reported that their previous estimate of 40,000 new cases of HIV infections per year falls about 40% short of the actual annual rate for HIV infections in the USA. “The fact that approximately 56,000 Americans are contracting HIV each year is a wake-up call for all of us in the U.S.,” says Kevin Fenton, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS prevention. The new estimate is “evidence of a failure of our government and society to do what it takes to control the epidemic,” adds Julie Davids, executive director of the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization project.
What do you believe can be done to address this epidemic in our community? Bilingual sexual education in public schools? Better health care for immigrants? Do you have any friends or family who have found out they were HIV positive?