Every year, on December 1st, we come together globally to unite in the fight against AIDS/HIV. We unite in support of those who are currently living with AIDS/HIV, and we remember those who have lost their lives to the virus. This year, the AIDS/HIV theme is “Think Positive: Rethink HIV.” The awareness campaign seeks to rethink outdated stereotypes, challenge myths and be positive about HIV.
With this year’s campaign theme in mind, I started to think about my Latino/Hispanic community and how the virus has affected us as a whole. I’ve seen first-hand the devastating impact AIDS/HIV can have on someone close to you, as I have witnessed the sickness and deaths of relatives and friends.
So, where do we stand in 2015? Is the situation getting any better? While there have been medical advances in treatment, we must be reminded that AIDS/HIV has not gone away. Statistics prove that our community still has a lot of work to do when it comes to raising awareness, increasing education, dispelling stigmas, and reducing discrimination.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Hispanics/Latinos bear a disproportionate burden of HIV in the United States, representing 17 percent of the population but 21 percent of new HIV infections. At the end of 2012, an estimated 125,051 Hispanics/Latinos with AIDS had died in the United States and in 2013, HIV was the eighth leading cause of death among Hispanics/Latinos aged 25 to 34. I challenge all of you to spread the word, not only today, but every day. Get tested and use condoms. If AIDS/HIV affects one of us, it affects all of us.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013, the rate of HIV diagnosis among Latinos was nearly three times that of whites - and that 15 percent of Latinos with HIV do not know that they are carrying the virus.
According to 2014 data from UNAIDS, an estimated 2 million people were living with HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean and 100 000 people became newly infected.
While the AIDS/HIV response has been scaled up in several Latin American and Caribbean countries, unfortunately, there has been little change in the annual number of new infections over the past five years. A major challenge is reaching vulnerable populations, who are often marginalized due to discrimination and encounter legal barriers in accessing services.
The CDC reports that Hispanics/Latinos have a disproportionately high HIV infection rate. Hispanics/Latinos living in the United States have an HIV infection rate that is more than three times higher than Caucasians.
In 2013, Hispanic/Latino men accounted for 87% (8,500) of all estimated new HIV infections among Hispanics/Latinos in the United States. Hispanic women/Latinas accounted for 14% (1,400) of the estimated new infections among all Hispanics/Latinos in the United States in 2010.
According to the CDC, Latinos account for 21 percent of all new HIV infections in the United States.
Black women and Latinas account for 79 percent of all reported HIV infections among 13- to 19-year-old women and 75 percent of HIV infections among 20- to 24-year-old women in the United States although, together, they represent only about 26 percent of U.S. women these ages.
At some point in their lives, an estimated 1 in 36 Hispanic/Latino men and 1 in 106 Hispanic/Latino women will be diagnosed with HIV.
Latina women face cultural barriers to consistent condom use, such as machismo and Catholicism's opposition to birth control. For example, Puerto Rican women's greatest obstacle to negotiating safer sex, including condom use, is the cultural expectation to respect males and to be submissive.
In 2010, among Latinos who had been diagnosed with HIV:
Just over half (54 percent) were retained in care
Fewer than half (44 percent) were prescribed antiretroviral therapy
Just 37 percent achieved viral suppression – meaning the virus is under control at a level that helps keep people healthy and reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to others.
Photo credit: Chat Roberts/Corbis
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Lyndz is of Panamanian and Colombian descent. A writer at heart, Lyndz has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Spelman College, and a Master of Science in Publishing: Digital and Print Media from New York University. Lyndz currently lives in New York City. You can follow her on Twitter:@Lyndz_Boogie.