October 15 marked the 10th annual National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD), a day for Latinos in the US to advocate, educate, and come together as a community to fight HIV/AIDS.
But what about the other 364 days per year? Despite evidence that Latinos suffer disproportionately from HIV/AIDS, we don't always hear about the AIDS epidemic specifically as it relates to Latino communities. This may be because, statistically speaking, the outlook for the epidemic is more bleak for African Americans than for Latinos. While Latinos made up 16 percent of the US population but accounted for 20 percent of new HIV infections in 2009, African Americans made up 14 percent of the US population and 44 percent of new HIV infections, according to the CDC.
But as the US Hispanic population grows, Latinos’ share of new diagnoses is also on the rise—from 15 percent of new HIV diagnoses in 1985, to 22 percent in 2010. The NLAAD website says that Latinos progress from HIV to AIDS faster than any other racial or ethnic group. And there are complicated factors at work that contribute to a high risk among Latinos, including lack of access to healthcare and health insurance, according to AIDS.gov. Tony Ochoa, Program Manager of National Latino AIDS Awareness Day, added that there are barriers to treatment and education that are specific to the Latino community, like the tendency in Latino communities to focus on the health of your family before your own.
“We really need to start seeing our own health and well-being as a way to take care of the people we really care about,” said Ochoa.
Ochoa added that NLAAD is not really a one-day event but a year-long effort, with one day dedicated to showcasing all of this hard work. But does the public still pay attention on October 16?
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