Grounding their work on HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment among Latinos through the Act Against AIDS initiative, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the results of a study that confirms that Latinos are diagnosed with HIV at a rate three times that of whites.
The report was featured in the CDC’s "Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report" last week. Studying data from 2008 to 2013 on HIV diagnoses across the United States and six "U.S. dependent areas" including Puerto Rico, the CDC concluded that although HIV infection rates went down for adult and adolescent Latinos overall (from 28.3 cases per 100,000 people in 2008 to 24.3 in 2013) they increased three percent among Latino males who have sex with men. The rate of diagnosis—18.7 per 100,000—was nearly three times that of whites (6.6 per 100,000).
The study also noted disparities based upon place of birth, as well as disparities in treatment accessed:
Findings from this report also confirm earlier findings that Hispanics or Latinos are not a homogenous group, and risk factors differ by place of birth (7,8). The majority of males born in Puerto Rico with infection diagnosed during 2008–2013 had infections attributed to male-to-male sexual contact, highlighting a change in HIV transmission patterns, which until recently indicated that the most common HIV transmission category among men in Puerto Rico was injection drug use (9). Still, a much larger proportion of Hispanic or Latino males born in Puerto Rico reported infection attributed to injection drug use compared with Hispanic or Latino males born elsewhere. HIV care providers working in communities where Puerto Ricans reside should be mindful of a recent report indicating that levels of linkage to care, retention in care, prescription of antiretroviral therapy, and viral suppression were lower among Hispanics or Latinos with HIV infection attributed to injection drug use than among those with infection attributed to male-to-male sexual contact and heterosexual contact (10).
Although the study does not incorporate data from the past two years, it still concludes that there is much to be done in reaching out to statistically vulnerable Latinos. Elicia Gonzalez, the Executive Director of Philadelphia-based GALAEI—a health service organization that works primarily with LGBTQ Latinos—spoke with TheBody.com on the importance of funding programs that address community-specific and structural intervientions:
"We fail to recognize and fund efforts to address social determinants that impact HIV and continue to insist on talking about individual risk factors for Latinos," she lamented upon hearing the new CDC data. "When funding is only limited to getting someone tested and linked to care, we neglect that person’s need for food, shelter and clothing."
"We cannot do this work in a vacuum and only work with the community to get them tested and linked," Gonzales concluded. "We have to address the other very real needs that bring people to our agency."
Click here to read the CDC’s report in full.