The “face” of the AIDS epidemic in the United States has changed, according to Marilyn Swyers, manager of AIDS Outreach for the East Alabama Medical Center.
AIDS was once viewed as a disease found primarily in gay, white men in big cities. “Twenty-seven years later,” however, Swyers says “it is disproportionately affecting the African-American and Latino populations.”
Hispanics have gone rather unnoticed in terms of HIV infection rates. They account for 14 percent of the United States population, yet represented 22 percent of new HIV and AIDS diagnoses in 2006.
“Officials need to stop downplaying or ignoring what’s happening among Latinos,” warned Oscar De La O, president of a Latino service organization. “We are at the center of the storm.”
“Even with the United States embroiled in a fierce debate over immigration policy, the problem of AIDS in Latinos had received scant attention from political and public health officials,” The Washington Post reported.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) aims only two of its 17 approved HIV programs at the Hispanic American population. However, the organization has added Spanish-language hotlines and confidential testing sites to help address the problem.
Health officials have implemented HIV testing programs around the United States to try obtaining a more accurate picture of HIV infections. Some of those efforts have been only marginally successful.
Meanwhile, the CDC recently announced a plan to release revised estimates of the number of Americans infected with the AIDS virus annually. Reuters reported that the new information could improve funding for clinics, public education and drug programs.