Archive for the ‘HIV/AIDs’ Category

nwghaad-webbadge-125xEach year on March 10th people across the country come together to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and its impact on women and girls on National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD). For too long, HIV/AIDS was classified as a disease that only affected gay men – a dangerous and inaccurate myth that left many women out of the conversation. However, in the 33 years since the epidemic started we have seen that  HIV can affect anyone, regardless of race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or gender. NWGHAAD was established to bring awareness to a specific population – women and girls – that is affected by HIV/AIDS, but is too often forgotten.

HIV/AIDS is a serious public health issue for women and girls. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV. Of those people, one in four (25%) is a woman 13 or older. Furthermore, an estimated 27,000 women have HIV but don’t know their status. Because of the misinformation surrounding the disease, many heterosexual women may not be aware of their own risk factors.

While HIV/AIDS has a serious impact on all mujeres y niñas, Latin@s are disproportionately impacted by the disease. In 2010 Latin@s represented eight percent of new HIV infections, which was more than four times the rate of new HIV infections for non-Hispanic white women. Additionally, the areas of the U.S. where HIV/AIDS is most prevalent – including California, Florida, Texas, and New York – are also the areas with the highest Latino populations and fastest growing Latino populations.

Why are our herman@s at such high risk for contracting HIV? According to the CDC, there are several complex factors that increase Latin@s’ risk of catching the virus, including:

  • Socioeconomic factors: Factors such as poverty, discrimination, and lack of access to affordable and quality healthcare are major contributors.
  • Stigma: The stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, including how it was contracted, may prevent Latin@s from seeking prevention services, testing, and treatment.
  • Cultural factors: Latinos in the U.S. are diverse and trace their roots to many countries. Studies show that country-specific cultural factors may impact behavioral risk factors, including how HIV is contracted. Additionally, traditional gender roles and cultural norms, which perpetuate harmful mandates about Latinas’ sexuality, may increase prevention challenges.
  • High rates of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs): Latin@s have higher rates of STIs than non-Hispanic white women. Pre-existing STIs can increase an individual’s risk for HIV infection once exposed to the virus.
  • Immigration status: Immigrant women and families may be hesitant to seek preventive, testing, and treatment services due to fear of having to disclose their status and being deported.

Although the statistics paint a somber picture, NWGHAAD provides an ideal opportunity start changing them for the better. The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health encourages everyone to use NWGHAAD to take action and take control by getting the facts, getting tested, and starting a conversation about HIV/AIDS and Latin@s.


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The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health recognizes the critical role community health centers (CHCs) play in delivering health care to Latin@ communities across the country.

And so does the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA): the health care reform law will provide $11 billion between 2011 and 2015 to support and expand operations of community health centers.

What exactly are Community Health Centers and how do they help our communities stay healthy?

Community health centers (CHCs) provide affordable, culturally-competent comprehensive primary and preventive health care services to low-income individuals living in medically underserved areas. In practice, this means that a community health center may be the only health care provider accessible to those in our community who most need care.

Community health centers receive specific federal funding to provide free or low-cost services, including reproductive health services like cancer screenings and contraception. Studies show that CHCs play a pivotal role in providing essential reproductive health care for low-income women, including prenatal care, mammograms and Pap tests. Community health centers provide care regardless of one’s ability to pay, immigration status, or primary language. They are often governed by a community board, whose membership is at least half composed of health center patients themselves and understand the community’s needs.

In 2010, approximately 1,100 federally-funded community health centers provided care to 19.5 million Americans. Latinos represent over one-third of all CHC patients and in 2009, 865,000 patients at these centers were migrant and seasonal farmworkers, many of them Latinas. In the new health reform law, $9.5 billion will go to create new CHCs in medically underserved areas as well as expand the types of health services provided at these centers. $1.5 billion will go to enhance infrastructure at existing community health centers.

Why is this funding so important for our community?

With millions of Americans living without health care insurance, there is a dire need for more community health centers to provide essential primary and preventive health care services. Among all racial and ethnic groups, Latinos have the highest health care uninsurance rates. We also know that Latinas disproportionately suffer from conditions and diseases such as cervical cancer and HIV/AIDS among others, so increasing the reach of CHCs will improve access to preventive health services and may begin to reduce health disparities. And finally, as undocumented immigrants and permanent residents who have had that status for five years or less will continue to be ineligible for Medicaid, community health centers will continue to play a unique role on providing quality care regardless of immigration status.

For more information about Community Health Centers,please check out NLIRH’s fact sheet, Medicaid and Community Health Centers Threatened with Funding Cuts: What is really at stake for Latinas and Immigrant Communities?

Photo Credit: Health Center Data: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Uniform Data System, 2009. National Data: U.S. Census Bureau, 2008 Current Population Reports. http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2010/08/increasing-access.html

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This World AIDS Day, more than 30 years since the world first heard of HIV and AIDS, my first thought on this issue is how even all these years later, we still stigmatize and marginalize those who are HIV-positive. But this is a two-way road, for it is not only that our society marginalizes HIV-positive individuals, but that the most marginalized people in our communities are most likely to become positive.

Yes, it is important to get tested. Yes, condoms, condoms, condoms. But the truth is that some of us are at higher risk than others merely because of who we are and the communities in which we move. At particular risk for HIV are women of color, transgender folks, young women. In short, HIV is not simply a disease, but rather an indicator of marginalization and injustice in our society.

This World AIDS Day, I’d like to see folks get tested, yes, but I am most grateful for those who are fighting for justice in our communities: for those who are fighting to end economic inequity, for those who are fighting to ensure that everyone has access to health care, for those who are centering the voices of the most marginalized people in our communities. Because in the end, AIDS  is a disease of marginalization and injustice, and we will not see an end to AIDS without ending inequity.


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By Hilarie Meyers, Development and Communications Intern

Over the past year, numerous positive advancements have been made in the realm of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, such as the development of various microbicides, the empirical success of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) pills, and even the Pope’s recent statements regarding the role of condoms in HIV prevention efforts. Yet, there is still work to be done.

In honor of World AIDS Day, which is held annually on December 1st, consider diving into the world of AIDS activism, if you haven’t already.  Click here for a list of ways to contribute to the fight against AIDS.  While an annual day of activism is a great way to get people involved, it’s even better if people begin to incorporate such activism into their daily lives.  My recommendation on where to get started: get tested!


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By Hilarie Meyers, Development and Communications Intern

Over the course of the past year, several new and exciting advancements have been made in the realm of HIV prevention, particularly in the form of microbicides, “a new type of product being developed that people could use vaginally or rectally to protect themselves from HIV and possibly other sexually transmitted infections.”  In a recent New York Times article, “New Lines of Attack in H.I.V. Prevention,” Donald G. McNeil Jr. highlights the importance of various microbicides that are being developed and even tested.  The article primarily focuses on a vaginal gel to be used topically and prior to infection; however, it also describes other forms of microbicides, including a rectal version of the gel and a long-lasting vaginal ring.  According to McNeil, the vaginal gel could be available on the market as early as 2013.

There are approximately 1.1 million Americans living with HIV/AIDS and an estimated 56,000 new infections are reported each year in the U.S. alone. According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Latinas account for 16% of new HIV infections among women and their HIV incidence rate is nearly 4 times the rate for white women.

Currently, prevention efforts often focus on promoting the use of condoms or abstinence, both of which may not be a viable option for many women and men.  A document put forth by Acción Mutua, a program of AIDS Project Los Angeles, explains:

Many women do not have the social or economic power necessary to insist on condom use and fidelity or to abandon relationships that put them at risk [for HIV infection]. Because microbicides would not require a partner’s cooperation, they would put the power to protect into women’s hands.


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By Krystal Chan, Development and Communications Intern

On March 31st, Senior Research Associate Liza Fuentes and I hosted our second spring semester brown bag lunch, “The Latino Health/Epidemiological Paradox…Does it really Exist?” The Latino Paradox does not have a robust definition but refers to statistical trends in which health outcomes do not match race/ethnicity or socioeconomic status. For Latinas this means that in some cases, despite our low socioeconomic environments, our health is comparable, or even better, than that of our non-Hispanic counterparts.

It has been commonly known that Latinos suffer lower incidences of cardiovascular disease and have overall lower rates of infant and maternal mortality. However, when looking closer, we still see that Puerto Ricans have the second highest infant mortality rates in the country, falling just behind non-Hispanic Blacks. A recent study conducted by Luisa N. Borrell, and Natalie D. Crawford, has highlighted the importance of looking within the data to get to the truth. In their paper, they highlight that Latinos between the ages of 22-44 actually have a 31% greater overall mortality rate when compared to non-Hispanics with the same age.

On the other hand, a study by the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at UCLA has shown that Japanese women no longer own the title of “longest-lived” group (at 83 years), but in fact, women living in southern Californian Latino communities have the longest life expectancy, at an average of 86 years.


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The National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights just released a statement applauding the removal of the HIV travel ban:

The ban, which was in place since 1987, was anachronistic and reflected a fundamental misunderstanding about HIV/AIDS and how it is spread. The public health community has long recognized that it is inappropriate to classify HIV as a “communicable disease of public health significance,” as that term is understood to apply to diseases that can be transmitted by casual contact.

This is an important victory – a step closer to reproductive justice for all.

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