October 7, 2013
Latino AIDS Awareness Day set for October 15 in Minnesota
HIV testing opportunities planned for October
Minnesota will observe National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) on Oct. 15 to raise awareness of the higher HIV infection rates occurring among Latinos in the state and across the nation.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), 740 Latino men, women and children have been diagnosed with HIV infection in Minnesota, including 158 that have died, since 1982 when reporting first began. Currently, there are 642 Latinos living with HIV in the state. Statewide, HIV infection rates for Latinos were three times greater than for whites.
This year's NLAAD theme, "Commit to Speak," emphasizes the importance of removing the stigma around HIV by openly talking about it.
"As parents, educators or health providers, we all have a role in talking about HIV, sexually transmitted diseases and reproductive health issues," said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health. "Removing the taboo around these topics can be very beneficial in helping people learn about their disease risks and teaching them how to prevent and detect these diseases as well."
Even without a cure or vaccine, HIV infection remains highly preventable, health officials say. Ways to prevent or reduce the spread of HIV include getting tested and getting into care if infected, avoiding or delaying the start of sexual activity, decreasing the number of sexual partners, using latex condoms consistently and correctly, and avoiding the sharing of needles or equipment to tattoo, body pierce or inject drugs. Getting an HIV test is one of the most important first steps in reducing HIV rates.
"One of the ways to get people to come in for testing is to talk to them about the benefits of early treatment," said Ehlinger. "Late diagnosis of HIV is associated with increased transmission, death rates and health care costs and many of our Latinos are testing at very late stages of their HIV infection."
Health officials noted that Latinos have one of the highest percentages of ‘late testers' for HIV infection compared to other population groups in Minnesota. Late testers are those who already have AIDS by the time they test or progress to AIDS within one year of the initial HIV (non-AIDS) diagnosis.
"Limited access to prevention and care programs, cultural and language barriers, and immigration status issues all contribute to higher infection rates," said Ehlinger. "We need to increase our efforts with local community partners to help reach our Latino communities in Minnesota."
The STD and HIV Section at MDH currently funds 20 agencies and the Office of Minority and Multicultural Health funds 6 agencies aimed at preventing the spread of HIV in adults and young people of all races who inject drugs and/or engage in sexual behaviors that transmit HIV. The programs serving Latinos with HIV prevention efforts include Neighborhood House and West Side Community Health Services in St. Paul, Centro in Minneapolis, Healthfinders Collaborative in Northfield, and Hennepin County Public Health Clinic.
Free/low-cost HIV and STD testing opportunities are available specifically for Latinos from bilingual staff and clinics that can address cultural and language barriers faced by Latinos. Being tested for HIV or other STDs is easy and results are kept private. To locate testing facilities, a bilingual campaign website has been set up at NLAAD.
For NLAAD 2013, the Minnesota Latino HIV/AIDS Network - a local community-based planning committee - has set up some HIV testing opportunities and exhibits. In addition, Gov. Mark Dayton has proclaimed Tuesday, Oct. 15, as Latino AIDS Awareness Day in Minnesota.
For more information, including local testing opportunities and activities for NLAAD, please visit National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) - MDH.
National Latino AIDS Awareness Day activities will occur throughout October
……in Minnesota, here is a sample event listing……
October 15, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) Event, Wellstone Center – Health Access Office, 179 Robie St. E., Room 123, St. Paul, MN 55107. In observance of NLAAD, a free public event will be held offering free HIV testing, educational materials and resources, shirts, snacks, and more.