It’s finally June and summer in Chicago which means… it’s pride month! I’m so excited to be participating in Chicago Latinx Pride this year as an ambassador for Act Against Aids! If there’s one thing I love about being a blogger, it’s getting people to talk about all aspects of health – including their sexual health and wellness! Regardless of your gender, race or sexual orientation, it’s critical that you know your status when it comes to HIV/AIDS.
About 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV. Of those people, 1 in 7 don’t know they are infected. Do you know your status? What about your partner’s status?
In 2015, 22% of all new HIV diagnoses were among youth aged 13-24. And the statistics are even more grim for Latinos. In 2015, Hispanics/Latinos accounted for 24% of the 40,040 new diagnoses of HIV infection in the United States. Of those, 87% (8,563) were in men, and 12% (1,223) were in women. Gay and bisexual men accounted for 85% of the HIV diagnoses among Hispanic/Latino men in 2015. Among the Hispanic women/ Latinas, 90% of the diagnosed HIV infections were attributed to heterosexual contact.
How does this happen?
I have a few theories of my own – like the fact that no one ever had a sex talk with me. I come from a reserved Mexican-American and Catholic family where sex was never mentioned or discussed. Abstinence was the only way and any other education was left for the church and school to handle. Which meant I never learned about HIV or AIDS growing up. And that scenario seems to be consistent for a lot of Latinx.
If you don’t know you have HIV, you can’t take advantage of HIV treatment and you don’t know if it has infected any of your previous partners. Latinos have unique challenges when it comes to HIV testing:
- Hispanics/Latinos have higher rates of some STDs than some other races/ethnicities. Having another STD can increase a person’s chance of getting or transmitting HIV
- Though not unique to Hispanics/Latinos, stigma, fear, discrimination, and homophobia impact Hispanic/Latino lives. These issues may put many Hispanics/Latinos at higher risk for HIV infection
- Poverty, education, and language barriers may make it harder for Hispanics/Latinos to get HIV testing and care
- Undocumented Hispanics/Latinos may be less likely to use HIV prevention services, get an HIV test, or get treatment if HIV-positive because of concerns about being arrested and deported
Lo Estoy Haciendelo.
Share what you’re doing to raise awareness about testing for HIV and use the hashtag #DoingItMyWay on social media. I’d love to hear about you’re doing it!!
Michelle Rivas is an Act Against AIDS ambassador and Latina lifestyle blogger.