HIV/AIDS and Latinos


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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Hispanics/Latinos accounted for 17% of new AIDS diagnoses in the United States. The rate of new HIV infections among Hispanics/Latinos is 2.5 times that of whites. 1

AIDS is the third leading cause of death for Latinos ages 35 to 44 and the fourth leading cause of death among Latino women in the same age group. Yet despite these alarming statistics, a recent NIAID survey found that only 11 percent of Latinos cited HIV/AIDS as the most urgent current health problem.2

Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) and injection drug users continue to be at a high risk for HIV. However, many Hispanic/Latino MSM identify themselves as heterosexual and, as a result, may not relate to prevention messages crafted for gay men.3 Heterosexual contact is the primary mode of transmission for Hispanic/Latina women.4 Underlying conditions such as language or cultural barriers, higher rates of poverty and substance abuse, and limited access to, or use of, health care may lead to delays in seeking treatment which may contribute to the high numbers of AIDS-related deaths.

Low health insurance levels worsen the problem, with 24 percent of Latino HIV patients being uninsured. Another 50 percent rely on Medicaid. Only 23 percent of Latino patients were privately insured. Partly due to the lack of insurance, Latino HIV patients are in danger of receiving inferior medical care. Studies have shown that Hispanics are more likely to be tested for HIV late in their illness, and that by the time Hispanics test for HIV, they are more likely to be diagnosed with AIDS.5

Why do we need a HIV preventive vaccine?
  • There is NO cure for AIDS. While the availability of anti-retroviral therapy has had a dramatic impact on decreasing AIDS-related deaths in this country, these treatment regimens are complex, costly and in many cases can cause serious side effects. In addition, the development of drug resistance is common.

  • Developing safe, effective and affordable vaccines that can prevent HIV infection in uninfected people is the best hope for controlling and/or ending the AIDS epidemic.

  • The long-term goal is to develop a vaccine that is 100 percent effective and protects everyone from getting infected with HIV. However, even if a vaccine only protects some people, it could still have a major impact on the rates of transmission and help in controlling the epidemic. A partially effective vaccine could decrease the number of people who get infected with HIV, further reducing the number of people who can pass the virus on to others.

  • Like smallpox and polio vaccines, a HIV preventive vaccine could help save millions of lives.

  • An HIV vaccine may also be beneficial for HIV-infected individuals by helping to delay the onset of AIDS or slowing disease progression. These types of vaccines are referred to as "therapeutic" vaccines. It is not known if a HIV preventive vaccine will have a therapeutic benefit in HIV-infected individuals. This would require additional clinical trials in those populations.