Latinas and AIDS

Latina & AIDS

Hispanic population; Hispanics or Latinos as they are commonly called are one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States of America. "Roughly one in seven Americans is Hispanic. Hispanics constitute the largest minority group in the United States. As of July 1, 2004, Hispanics accounted for 14.1% of the population, around 41.3 million people" ('Hispanic', Demographics section). Even though this group has assimilated in the mainstream, yet they have their peculiar culture, different lifestyle, distinct music, colorful dances and even unusual cuisines. Like all other communities this community is also facing many issues and problems. Latino/Hispanic community is at greater risk to HIV / AIDS due to different reasons. Statistics show that AIDS is the leading cause of death among men and women in he minority community.

Economic Issues

Among many issues facing the Latino/Hispanic community, poverty is of main concern. A number of Hispanics live in abject poverty. People infected with the disease have very low annual incomes. Economic conditions limit their access to high-quality health care. Due to their social standing and lack of early sex education they also have awareness problems. Some of the illegal immigrants have lack of information about HIV / AIDS due to their status. Also, economic hardships force many men and women from these minority communities to enter into sex trade and increase their risks of acquiring the HIV virus. Both education and economic well being can help in improving the situation in this community.

Sexual Identity Issues

Homosexuals or men who have sexual intercourse with men, come out to be the biggest group affected by the AIDS epidemic. Previously the incidence of AIDS was high among white men but with the preventive messages and programs the number of white men heavily affected with AIDS epidemic has reduced drastically. However, same can not be said for the men belonging to the minority groups.

Social factors are also come into play as some Latinos do not recognize the problem at hand and do not participate in activities that support AIDS/HIV awareness and prevention. Men in particular do not recognize their sexualities and due to their macho behavior consider themselves as heterosexuals even if they have sex with the partners of the same sex. In such a situation they do not pay much heed to messages meant for prevention in gay sex and so become infected with virus.

Research suggests that the problem of sexual identity with men or women belonging minority communities is more acute than the general white population. Issues like homophobia & discrimination come into play when men belonging to these communities come out with their identities. The behavior of other community members makes it difficult for GLB community to come to terms with their sexual identity resulting in internalization of homophobia, low self-esteem, psychological stress and poor mental health which in turn aggravates the issue of physical and sexual health and HIV risk behavior. "HIV prevention efforts targeting gay Latinos could be effective if such programs were to break the sexual silence. Through communication and critical reflection, gay Latinos will be able to construct and develop a new kind of knowledge -- namely, sexual self-knowledge. Unlike HIV information that is externally given -- often couched in imperatives and requests for compliance -- such constructed self-knowledge in the context of community building may prove to be truly protective and empowering" (Diaz, 9).

Women of the Community

The problem is not just related to men but women in this particular community are also at greater risk when they have sex with men who have multiple partners either men or women or even both. Women in the community still do not have the equal status and say in matters related to sex. For example, the men still have the chauvinistic and macho roles in the family and women are still afraid of discussing matters like using condoms with them. "In the United States, women of various Latin and South American nationalities (including Latinas of Mexican heritage born either in the United States or Mexico) represent one fourth of female cases of AIDS, even though they constitute only 9% of the U.S. population (Centers for Disease Control [CDC], 1994). This group of women is among the fastest-growing subgroups at risk for HIV infection, and, in 1991, AIDS was the third leading cause of death among Latinas between 25 and 44 years of age (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1990)" (Carmona, Kernan et al., 454).

Organizations and programs must keep their focus on women in particular because when women get infected with virus then the chances of transferring them to a new born baby also increase. The problem is therefore, more grave as it involves the health of the many new lives coming in the world. If women are made aware of preventive measures then these two key groups of women and infants or new born babies will become safe.

Heterosexual Risks

The risk of AIDS/HIV is not just with GLB community but men and women in heterosexual relationships are also at risk if they have unprotected sex with multiple partners. The preventive measures like the use of condoms can play a pivotal role in the prevention but generally the socio psychological issues prevent them from freely and willingly make use of condoms. May researches have been conducted with both married and unmarried heterosexuals and found out the problem with self-efficacy or their ability to carry out a behavior rather than control measures like condoms. "Survey results showed that both men and women reported lowest self-efficacy to use condoms with their regular partners and when sexual relationships involved impulse control. Also, less educated men and women had lower self-efficacy to discuss condoms and to manage partner resistance which may possibly reflect less acculturation to American society. They interpret that their results suggest community-level interventions are needed to persuade Latino men to negotiate condom use with the irregular and casual sexual partners" (Peterson, 1+).

Controlling the Youth

Youth in the Hispanic and other such minority communities are at greater risk of acquiring the virus as studies suggest that youth in these communities in particular show more risky sexual behavior. Figures show that the youth becomes sexually active at an early age in these communities. Also, the use of preventive measures is also found to be low among the youth of Latino and other minority communities. "According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey's (YRBS) 2004 data, nationwide 46.7% of students in grades 9 to 12 have had sexual intercourse. However, the prevalence is higher among African-American (67.3%) and Hispanic (51.4%) than among white youth (41.8%; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, May 21, 2004). The prevalence of sexual intercourse before age 13, of having 4 or more sex partners, and the prevalence of unintended pregnancies show the same trend. The prevalence of using a condom at last intercourse was lowest among Latino/Hispanic students" (Velez-Pastrana, Gonzalez-Rodriguez & Borges-Hernandez, 777+).

Reports also suggest that the youth of the community is more likely to have sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydial infection etc. These diseases in turn increase the risk of HIV. Parent's role in controlling the behavior of youth becomes crucial here. One tactic of prevention is holding up the onset of sexual activity at an early age and encouraging values like fidelity and parents can be the best role models in this regard.

Drugs & Substance Abuse

Drugs and substance abuse can also be considered important causes of spread of the epidemic. Firstly, sharing of needles among drug users in the community can play a greater role in the spread of disease. Secondly substance abuse and reckless behavior go hand in hand increasing the risk of unsafe sex among the community members. Youth as well adolescents in these communities areā€¦