October 15th is National Latinx AIDS Awareness Day!

Each year, the Latino Commission on AIDS organizes the observance of National Latinx AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD). NLAAD is a way to highlight the disproportionate impact HIV has on Hispanic and Latinx* communities.

NLAAD was founded in 2003 as a joint effort between the Latino Commission on AIDS and Hispanic Federation as a response to the impact of HIV/AIDS on the Hispanic/Latinx communities in the US.[1] Their goal is to draw attention to the critical role of HIV testing and prevention education as a way of stopping the spread of HIV among the Hispanic and Latinx communities.

The NLAAD’s campaign theme for 2019 is “Living with HIV or not…we’re fighting this together.” The campaign aims to show that people of either HIV status have a say on ending HIV and stopping new diagnoses. It wants to change the idea that only one group (those who are currently living with HIV) should bear the responsibility of HIV prevention. [2] These preventative measures can include consistently and correctly using condoms and taking Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP, a once-a-day pill taken by an HIV-negative person that can prevent HIV transmission).[3]

According to the CDC, while Hispanics/Latinxs make up about 18% of the US population, they accounted for 26% of new HIV infections in 2016, a total of 10,292 people. An estimated 252,400 Hispanic/Latinx people were living with HIV at the end of 2015, with 84% being were aware of their infection.[4] The CDC states that of all Hispanics/Latinxs with HIV, 59% received medical care in 2015 and 50% had achieved viral suppression, meaning they have an undetectable level of HIV in their system and have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting HIV to HIV-negative partners. [5]

About 1 in 6 Hispanics/Latinxs are unaware that they have HIV, and the community faces some unique barriers when it comes to testing and treatment. The CDC notes poverty, migration patterns, lower educational levels, and language barriers as prevention challenges that make it harder for the Hispanic/Latinx community to get tested and receive care.[6] There is also a population of the community that is undocumented and may be less likely to seek healthcare services for fear of being arrested or deported. Additionally, while not unique to the Latinx community, HIV stigma and homophobia are still prominent factors that can impact the sexual health of some Hispanics/Latinxs.[7]

Caring Communities is working toward better serving our area’s Hispanic/Latinx and Spanish-speaking populations by providing more culturally competent care and offering testing and case management services with bilingual staff. Our Hazleton office serves an area with a population that is over 50% Hispanic/Latinx, according to U.S. Census data. With two bilingual staff, that office operates a free STD clinic and provides free HIV case management services in hopes of helping the Hispanic/Latinx community overcome some barriers to care and work toward reducing the disproportionate impact of HIV on that community.

* “Latinx” is a gender-neutral term used to describe people of Latin American culture or racial identity in the US. It replaces the standard -o and -a gendered endings common in Spanish. The plural is “Latinxs.”[8]

[1] http://nlaad.org/who-we-are/

[2] http://nlaad.org/

[3] http://nlaad.org/prep/

[4] https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/pdf/library/reports/surveillance/cdc-hiv-surveillance-supplemental-report-vol-23-1.pdf

[5] https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/racialethnic/hispaniclatinos/index.html

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16080455

[7] https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/racialethnic/hispaniclatinos/index.html

[8] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Latinx