Knowing Your Status: LULAC Addresses High HIV Infection Rates in the Latino Community

Posted on 01/27/2016 @ 11:45 PM

Tags: health

By: David Perez, LULAC National Director of Development

Although the overall rates of new HIV infections are steadily decreasing, the same cannot be said for the Latino community. In 2013, Latinos accounted for almost one quarter of all estimated new diagnoses of HIV infections despite representing about 17% of the total U.S. population. According to a report released by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the number of HIV diagnoses among gay Latino and black youth in the United States has seen a dramatic increase of 87%. Men who have sex with men accounted for 67% of new cases of HIV in 2014, and for Latino men in this group, the rate rose almost 25 percent. In an effort to understand the problem and find solutions that properly address the needs of vulnerable populations, LULAC will be spearheading a series of sessions and conferences with help from the CDC.

On January 21, 2016, LULAC participated in the 4th Annual Unión = Fuerza Latino Institute, a component of the Creating Change Conference held in Chicago, Illinois. The conference included a plenary session with David Ernesto Munar, President and CEO of Howard Brown Health, who discussed the need for mobilizing LGBTQ Latinos around raising awareness about HIV issues in the Latino community. In addition, the conference included a workshop led by LULAC partner, Oscar Raúl López of Valley AIDS Council to address homophobia in the United States–Mexico border region.

At the conference, panelists discussed the root causes for the increase of HIV infections among the Latino LGBTQ community; how to ensure that LGBTQ Latinos be involved in the solutions; and how to ensure that the needs of particularly vulnerable groups such as transgender, youth, and immigrants be addressed in the solutions. Other topics covered at the conference included the importance of seeking treatment, preventive methods, and anti-stigma efforts. The sessions provided opportunities to meet the challenges we face as LGBTQ Latinos and to work together to take action.

As part of the Creating Change Conference, LULAC hosted the LGBTQ Latin@ HIV Caucus on January 22, 2016. Participants gathered to discuss their HIV prevention and treatment work and the specific barriers or challenges faced by the LGBTQ community regarding access to prevention and treatment services. The session identified opportunities for collaboration, and encouraged Latino-led LGBTQ organizations to take advantage of HIV funding opportunities provided by LULAC and the CDC.

The LGBTQ Latin@ HIV Caucus included issue experts Jesus Barrios, sexual and behavioral health coordinator at the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center; Alex Garner, program coordinator from the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC); Arianna Lint, from the TransLatin@ Coalition; David M. Pérez, from the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and Lillian Rivera, from the Hetrick-Martin Institute (HMI).

It is critical that the Latino community become aware of the increasing HIV infection rates in our community and has the proper resources and information in order to fight against stereotypes and other challenges that may prevent people from seeking treatment. Conferences like these are important because they encourage community leaders to highlight important issues facing the LGBTQ Latino community and take action. Through participation in this conference, LULAC hopes to bring HIV issues in the Latino community to the forefront of our national dialogue. We hope that open discussions will encourage leaders to raise awareness about HIV in their own communities and educate their friends, family members, and coworkers on HIV prevention strategies and testing.

David M. Pérez is the Director of Development for League of United Latin American Citizens and a founding co-chair of the Unión = Fuerza Latino Institute at Creating Change, now in its 4th year. You may contact David at dperez@LULAC.org.

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