Advocates call for HIV awareness and education in Latinx community

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE staff reporter

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

(Source: Getty Images)

Advocates continue to work to fill gaps in HIV education and health resources in the Latinx community, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made their jobs even more difficult.

Both HIV and COVID have “a disproportionate impact on non-white communities,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted in a recent article.

As for HIV rates, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided updated figures last May, showing that “Hispanics / Latinos accounted for 29% of HIV infections in 2019, while representing about 18, 5% of the global population, according to the latest census figures, ”said AJC.

CDC figures also show a stark disparity in pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, which has been shown to be effective in reducing HIV transmission. “In 2019, about 14% of Hispanic / Latin American people eligible for PrEP received it, compared to 63% of white patients,” the AJC article details.

The obstacles are familiar: AJJ has listed them as “immigration problems, language barriers and lack of access to health care and transportation”.

These roadblocks are examples of what Luciano Reberte, program director of New York’s Latino Commission on AIDS, calls “the social determinants of health”. In a previous article on EDGE, Reberte pointed out that “the lack of access to medical insurance for the immigrant community and to prevention services, limited access to mental health services, communication and language barriers” and other factors are the main reasons for the disparities in health care faced by the Latinx community.

But other factors also come into play, especially when it comes to individuals having an intersectional experience. While screening and early treatment can be essential to a healthy outcome for people who contract HIV, “the stigma associated with HIV, followed by homophobia, transphobia and xenophobia,” in Reberte’s words. , can interfere with needed health care.

Another complicating factor is the lack of education about HIV. In Seattle – a city, noted the previous EDGE article, “where Latinos make up 6.6 percent of the population but nearly 15 percent of its HIV cases” – the deputy director of Between Hermanos, Eric Holzapfel, spoke about the organization’s efforts to disseminate factual information about HIV.

“What dating apps do young people use? What radio station should we be on? Are among the questions the group is focusing on, Holzapfel told EDGE. “We get this information through in-depth interviews and focus groups to make sure we stay up to date.”

But countering myths and misinformation can seem like an uphill battle. “It is still a pervasive myth in the Latinx community, that [HIV] is a death sentence, “AJC quoted, citing the president of the LGBTQ + service organization Latino LinQ, says Humberto Orozco.

“People don’t realize that there are treatments for HIV and that you can live a relatively normal life,” Orozco added.

To close the loop, COVID-19 has made it harder to educate at-risk populations already marginalized by stigma, language barriers and lack of factual information, among other challenges. The AJC article cited “closures that have temporarily closed testing sites, delayed medical research trials and made outreach services difficult.”

“The reality is that because of the pandemic these things have gone off the rails,” Dr. Carlos del Rio of Emory University School of Medicine told AJC.

Even so, the work that defenders do has an impact. In a test for Very good health, Ismael Ruiz shared his personal story about being diagnosed with HIV in the 1990s, battling depression, and ultimately turning to a New York-based group. The Alliance for Positive Change.

Ruiz explained how, in 2006, he “enrolled in the Alliance’s career education program,” after which he “became a community member advocating a program for the needs of the Alliance. special “- a role that” gave me this new autonomy “. Among other things, Ruiz “learned to be proactive with my treatment”.

Involvement at the individual level for the benefit of the community is something that Orozco de Latino LinQ and Emory University of Del Rio School of Medicine are also advocating, AJC noted. As a community educator at Emory University, Orozco “publicized current vaccinations and medical trials” and “worked to enroll patients in a clinical trial for a potential HIV vaccine.”

Del Rio, meanwhile, “encourages members of the Hispanic community to enroll in future studies because diversity is important when it comes to medical research.”

Kilian Melloy is Associate Editor and Staff Contributor at EDGE Media Network. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Elliot Norton Awards Committee of the Boston Theater Critics Association.

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