The Importance of Latinx National AIDS Awareness Day 2021

The National Latinx AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) is held each fall on October 15 with the aim of promoting information and access to HIV testing and treatment focused on Hispanic and Latin communities, which are affected in such a way. disproportionate by HIV.

The date is important every year, of course. But in 2021, this is particularly crucial. This June marked 40 years since the first reports of the disease which later became known as HIV.

Over the past four decades, we have made tremendous strides in the prevention and treatment of HIV. But we also left a lot of people behind us. We are lacking progress in eliminating health care disparities that disproportionately hamper access for the most affected communities.

“The Latinx community continues to be over-represented in HIV cases relative to its percentage of the US population,” says Dr. Richard Jimenez, faculty member in the PhD program in public health at Walden University.

In 2019, Latinxes made up about 18% of the U.S. population, but they made up 30% of the 36,801 new confirmed HIV diagnoses.

“Awareness campaigns help avoid complacency and keep HIV prevention high on the agenda,” Jimenez adds.

A lack of confidence in the medical field – brought on by the systemic racism and implicit racial and ethnic biases among healthcare workers – is a major barrier for some Latinx people when it comes to receiving HIV testing, l ‘education in prevention and care and to maintain care once it is available. And that’s why the health system needs to do a better job of becoming culturally competent and meeting people where they are.

“Culturally appropriate, meaningful, and responsive educational interventions are important to reaching the Latinx community,” Jimenez said. “Community members who are marginalized and hard to reach do not have easy access to educational HIV prevention interventions or the health system when services are needed.

Outreach efforts like the NLAAD are only a small part of the larger systemic changes needed to ensure that health and education programs take the lead in reaching these communities.

Another huge barrier to testing and treatment for some people can be fear, and not just about their HIV status.

“If they don’t have papers, they’re afraid of being deported,” says Tammy Ayala, Intensive Case Manager at the EPIC Sexual Health Center in the Tampa, Florida area. Ayala does outreach in communities with large populations of migrant farm workers.

“I tell them, ‘We don’t report people. That’s not what we’re doing here. ‘ She adds. “I have not had any undocumented clients who have refused services. As soon as they know that help is available to them, they grab it with open arms. So I know it’s not because they don’t want help or don’t want care. It’s just that they are afraid.

Despite the American Medical Association’s policy statements regarding the ethical obligation to treat patients regardless of their immigration status, reports of individuals facing questioning or deportation after seeking medical treatment may lead to a justified reluctance to seek care, even for legal immigrants.

Affordability can also be a concern, especially for those who do not have access to health insurance or have high out-of-pocket expenses. “They don’t understand that there are free resources available for them,” Ayala says.

The US Census Bureau reports that in 2019, “Hispanics made up 18.7% of the total population, but 28.1% of the population living in poverty.”

And according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), in 2019, people under 65 who were Hispanic, Black, Native American, Native Alaskan, Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander were less likely to be insured than their white counterparts. . KFF figures show that, despite the gains from the Affordable Care Act, 20% of Hispanics under the age of 65 had no insurance coverage in 2019.

The Ryan White HIV / AIDS Program is a federally funded program that provides financial assistance to people living with HIV by covering the cost of medications and doctor visits related to HIV care.

“Undocumented migrants are also eligible for this,” Ayala says. “So it’s not like they can’t qualify if they don’t have a Social Security number – when with many nonprofits you have to have it.”

For these immigrant populations and the 67 percent of Hispanic Americans born in the United States, cultural and linguistic considerations still affect health care access and outcomes. Recognizing and integrating these factors into health care programs can help these communities access care.

A big message Ayala wants to get across for NLAAD concerns prevention. Pre-exposure prophylaxis, better known as PrEP, is available to prevent HIV infection. “PrEP is an anti-HIV pill for people who don’t have HIV,” she explains.

PrEP reduces your risk of contracting HIV by 99% through sexual contact and 74% by injecting drugs.

“Depending on the person and their level of risk,” Ayala adds, “they will want this pill.” Ayala continues to educate about safe sex and condom use because, she says, there are still many other STIs, not just HIV.

Raising awareness of PrEP remains a major obstacle, however. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that among men who have sex with men, a lower percentage of black and Latin men than white men discussed PrEP with their health care provider. .

“A lot of people don’t know about this pill,” Ayala says of her clients. “They are shocked every time.”

PrEP uses a form of combination antiretroviral therapy (cART or ART), which is now the gold standard for treating HIV. These days, people living with HIV can take cART, a combination of several drugs. Options include a daily pill and (just approved and forthcoming) a long-acting injectable.

Over time, treatment can lower a person’s viral load to an undetectable level, also making the infection non-communicable (this is also known as U = U). “Not only are they healthy,” Ayala says, “but they are not going to pass HIV to other people. ”

She emphasizes that ART is not a cure and that people should continue to take their medication. But people are now living long and healthy lives with HIV. “Whatever dreams you had before HIV,” she says, “you can still have them after. “

So what can you do for NLAAD? Ayala said, “Get tested. Many test sites are free. EPIC, for example, does not charge. Ayala says to get the word out about testing options, if possible.

HIV-related stigma can still exist in any community, and it can be a barrier to testing or to care or follow-up care, Ayala says. Talking openly about HIV can help reduce stigma. Post about awareness on social media and talk with your friends and family.

“It all starts with realizing and recognizing that the problem still exists, that we are strongly affected and that we can do something to prevent the problem,” adds Jimenez.

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