Study: Undocumented Latinos Get Into HIV Treatment Dangerously Late

Undocumented Latinos and black Americans both arrive in care later than others. But undocumented Latinos are still likely to do well in treatment once there.

By Jorge Rivas Apr 01, 2013

A recent study conducted at a free clinic in Houston found undocumented Latinos with HIV infections enter care with more advanced disease than other patients. Despite getting medical care at later dates, however, undocumented Latinos with HIV achieved similar success in treatment as documented Latino and white patients.

HIV doctors and researchers have long warned that it is far more difficult for treatment to succeed when patients begin after the virus has advanced in the body. Late diagnosis has already been identified as a key reason for higher death rates among black Americans.

Dr. Thomas Giordano, associate professor of medicine-infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine, reviewed data from patients who visited Houston’s Thomas Street Health Center over a five-and-a-half year period. The study consisted of 1,620 HIV-infected adults, including 186 undocumented Latino patients, 278 documented Latino patients, 986 black patients and 170 white patients.

"We found that undocumented Hispanic patients came into the clinic with the most advanced HIV disease compared to the documented Hispanic, black and white populations, indicating that they were delaying care or had experienced delays in getting diagnosed," said Dr. Giordano in a statement.

The study found that undocumented Latinos entered treatment with the most weakened immune systems.

One year after entering HIV care undocumented Latinos achieved similar rates of retention in care and similar success in reversing HIV’s advance as documented Latino and white patients. The study found black patients, however, were "significantly less likely" to succeed in care than even undocumented Latinos. There has been significant research on the impact social and economic factors have on black Americans’ ability to get, keep and thrive in HIV care.

Houston has the third largest Latino population in the United States.