Increasing Rates of HIV among LGBT Latinos are Wake-Up Call to Health Advocates

Over the past few years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), healthcare providers, and community advocates like LULAC have been working to decrease HIV infection rates. While a report released by the CDC shows that HIV infection rates are on a steady decline; among gay black and Latino men, HIV infection rates have risen by a startling 87 percent since 2005. Overall, HIV infection rates have increased 6% among all gay and bisexual men, driven by increases among Black and Hispanic/Latino gay and bisexual men.

The news is startling given Black and Latino men account for just a small segment of their respective populations. At the root of such high infection rates is the stigma associated with getting tested for HIV. Even though public opinion on same-sex relationships continues to shift in a positive direction, acknowledging sexual orientation in Latino families is often taboo. Given the lack of dialogue, many of these individuals don't have access to critical prevention methods and information on HIV testing, which often leads to risky behaviors that increase their risks for contracting HIV. Latinos are also less likely to seek care or get tested due to language barriers, lack of health insurance, and fears of exposing their immigration status.

According to the CDC, 7 in 10 new HIV diagnoses among Latinos occur in gay and bisexual men. The high rates of infection among gay and bisexual Latino men and the cultural barriers that prevent them from seeking help show that traditional awareness campaigns are not effective. To address this, LULAC is partnering with the CDC's Partnering and Communicating Together (PACT) to Act Against AIDS which aims to reduce the stigma associated with getting tested for HIV. LULAC is engaging its network of grassroots councils to host awareness events that include testing, town halls, and community service aimed at encouraging more Latinos to get tested.

On September 27th LULAC councils across the country will observe National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, in an effort to encourage other gay Latino men to take the necessary precautions to get tested, know their status, and have a conversation with their partner on HIV prevention methods. LULAC will work with its network of councils, partners, and advocates to ensure that more Latinos understand the risks and are taking the necessary precautions to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS.