News release: October 15 is Latino AIDS Awareness Day in Minnesota

News Release
October 9, 2014

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October 15 is Latino AIDS Awareness Day in Minnesota

HIV testing opportunities planned for October

National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) will be observed in Minnesota on Oct. 15 as a call to action for Latinos to protect their lives and the lives of those they love by getting tested for and learning about HIV.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), 773 Latinos have been diagnosed with HIV infection in Minnesota, including 163 that have died, since 1982 when reporting first began. Currently, there are 665 Latinos living with HIV in the state. Statewide, HIV infection rates for Latinos were over three times greater than for whites.

This year's NLAAD theme, "To End AIDS, Commit to Act," emphasizes the importance of being committed to knowing the facts, getting tested and getting into care if infected.

"Those who don't have the facts about HIV or access to testing and care are vulnerable to getting or unknowingly spreading HIV," said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health. "Learning how to prevent HIV and getting tested for HIV can have an enormous impact on reducing HIV infection rates among Latinos."

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.

"Many Latinos are getting tested at very late stages of their HIV infection, leading to increased transmission, death rates and health care costs," said Ehlinger.

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 that already have AIDS by the time they test or progress to AIDS within one year of the initial HIV (non-AIDS) diagnosis.

"Having access to culturally specific prevention, testing and care programs are critical in reducing HIV infection rates," said Ehlinger. "We need to intensify our efforts with local community partners to provide these resources to our Latino communities in Minnesota."

The STD/HIV/TB Section at MDH currently funds 20 agencies and the Minnesota 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 http://nlaad.org/.

For NLAAD 2014, local organizations have set up some HIV testing opportunities and exhibits. In addition, Gov. Mark Dayton has proclaimed Wednesday, Oct. 15, as Latino AIDS Awareness Day in Minnesota.

For more information, including local testing opportunities and activities for NLAAD, please visit: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/hiv/worldaidsday/nlaad/index.html. For bilingual educational resources, visit the "No Mas HIV" website.


National Latino AIDS Awareness Day activities will occur throughout October
……in Minnesota, here is a sample event listing……
October 15, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., The Aliveness Project's NLAAD Free HIV Testing Event, 3808 Nicollet Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55407. In observance of NLAAD, free HIV testing will be available for walk-ins, no appointments necessary.

-MDH-


Media inquiries:

Doug Schultz
MDH Communications
651-201-4993