There are currently more than one million people in the United States living with HIV/AIDS. The disease disproportionately affects Latinos, who account for more than one-fifth of infections while only representing about 17% of the population. Latinos are more than three times more likely to become infected than their White counterparts. That disparity becomes even more severe for Latino men, who make up about 85% of new HIV diagnoses within the Latino community.
National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) was started in 2003 to shed light on the growing epidemic of HIV/AIDS within the Latino community. Falling on the final day of Hispanic Heritage Month, it tempers the celebration of our shared heritage with a call to action to help those in our community who suffer the hardships of HIV/AIDS on a daily basis. This year’s theme is “You & I Will Defeat AIDS” (Tú y yo vamos a derrotar al SIDA).
The factors contributing to the impact of HIV/AIDS on the Latino community go beyond mere health care. Higher poverty rates among Latinos mean they are less able to access adequate, routine, and timely care and treatment. Immigration issues, currently being loudly debated in our national arena, can also contribute to fears about sharing personal information.
An important resource in the fight against HIV/AIDS is the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, established in 1990 by the HIV/AIDS Bureau—part of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration—to provide treatment and services for people living with HIV/AIDS but who lack resources to obtain the care they require. The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program provides critical HIV care, support, and medications to over half a million people each year. The program also supports the Affordable Care Enrollment Technical Assistance Center, which trains health departments and HIV/AIDS service providers to enroll diverse people living with HIV in Affordable Care Act (ACA) health coverage. The program has materials available for consumers, providers, and enrollment assisters, including Making the Most of Your Coverage, a guide that provides information on how newly insured consumers can use their health insurance. NCLR is a partner in this effort led by JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc., as we work to reduce the number of uninsured people in the Latino community.
With the third ACA open enrollment period beginning on November 1, it is extremely important for more Latinos to get the correct information regarding coverage and HIV treatment. To find the right health insurance plan for you, visit healthcare.gov or cuidadodesalud.gov, or call toll-free at 1 (800) 318-2596. The open enrollment period allows registration in a health plan through January 31, 2016. One-on-one enrollment assistance can help people choose the best, most affordable plan, and is available at localhelp.healthcare.gov and ayudalocal.cuidadodesalud.gov/es.
Since its establishment, NLAAD has succeeded in raising awareness both in the Latino community and the country as a whole. Testing kits have become more widely available across the United States as a result of NLAAD and partner organizations’ efforts to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS. New infections among Latinos are decreasing as a result of the comprehensive efforts underway across the country; however, the infection rate continues to rise among Latino men who have sex with men. There is still much to be done before HIV/AIDS can go the way of polio and smallpox.
For information on HIV/AIDS prevention, testing, and treatment, or to find out how you can get involved in the fight against this disease, please visit nlaad.org. You can sign up for events and volunteer opportunities to help our community reduce the threat of infection. NCLR is proud to assist in the struggle against HIV/AIDS and we will continue to strive and work for the health of Latinos across the country.