HRC Blog

Ninth Annual Latino AIDS Awareness Day

The following guest post comes from Francisco Ruiz, senior manager of health equity at National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD)

October 15 marks the ninth annual National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD).  This year’s theme, “Latinos Unite! Let's stay Healthy! Get Tested for HIV!”, speaks to the importance of addressing the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic but also other health issues, such as viral hepatitis and other sexually transmitted infections that greatly impact our Latino communities.

This day provides an opportunity for reflection, discussion and, most importantly, action.  Our nation is at a turning point in the history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic with last year’s release of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (the Strategy).  This ambitious plan serves as the nation’s HIV/AIDS roadmap with clear and measurable targets to be achieved by 2015.  The Strategy is intended to refocus the nation’s existing efforts and emphasizes the need to target resources in an effort to maximize the impact of HIV prevention activities to ultimately reduce HIV incidence, increase access to care for people living with HIV and promote health equity.  As the fastest growing and youngest racial/ethnic group in the U.S., it is imperative to our nation’s public health that the implementation of the Strategy addresses the distinct needs of the diverse and dynamic Latino communities in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. 

While new HIV incidence estimates released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that the overall number of new HIV infections has remained fairly stable from 2006–2009, there continues to be cause for alarm over increasing numbers of new infections among gay men of all races and ethnicities.  In particular, these new estimates identify Latino gay men as moving from the fourth to third most impacted population.  The new estimates point to the depth of the HIV crisis among Latino gay men and the consequences associated with paltry efforts to prevent HIV transmission and combat multi-faceted forms of stigma.

NASTAD remains committed to continue working with health departments and other stakeholders to implement timely and relevant programmatic and policy efforts to address HIV/AIDS, STDs and viral hepatitis at all levels, particularly among Latino gay men.  Earlier this year, NASTAD released a report titled, A Través de Nuestros Ojos (Through Our Eyes): Promoting Health and Social Equity to Address HIV/AIDS among Latino Gay Men (Also available in Spanish), that summarizes the findings of a qualitative study in 12 jurisdictions that investigated responses of health departments and community-based organizations to the HIV/AIDS crisis among Latino gay men in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The report generates key themes to assist and inform effective federal, state and local public health responses to HIV/STDs among these men.  NASTAD is poised to release a companion video report that includes segments that mirror sections of the written report.  The video report will serve as a tool for furthering community reflection, discussion and provide an innovative platform of translating scientific data into a more popular form.  For more information, please visit www.NASTAD.org.

Francisco Ruiz is the Senior Manager of the Health Equity Program at the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), a national HIV/AIDS public policy organization that represents the nation's chief state and territorial health agency staff who have programmatic responsibility for administering HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis healthcare, prevention, education, and supportive service programs funded by state and federal governments.  In this capacity, Mr. Ruiz guides NASTAD’s approach to eliminating racial and ethnic health inequities and participates in strategic discussions and recommends innovative and science/research-based steps in addressing the HIV epidemics in the United States and its territories. 

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