Every October 15, the United States commemorates the National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD), with the goal of continuing to create awareness about a public health problem that has not yet been eradicated: en 2019, more than 10,000 Hispanics received an HIV diagnosis, representing 29% of all new cases in the country and in its territories. Many of these cases reach the medical consultation when they have already advanced to the AIDS stage, having lost an invaluable window of opportunity to start treatments that add years and quality of life.
The numbers don’t just reflect outstanding debts in the United States. In Latin America, also in 2019, 2.1 million people were living with HIV, with 120,000 new infections and 37,000 deaths this year. Access to treatments and to PrEP, preventive medicine, remain elusive.
By 2005, the region had reached a 20% access to treatment rate, high compared to 3% in Sub-Saharan Africa. But in the last decade, progress has slowed, and between 2010 and 2020, the number of cases in Latin America has risen by 21%, compared to a 23% decline globally.
In both the United States and Latin America, the challenges are similar: continue to educate about the possibilities of prevention, and ensure that all people have access to information and HIV care.
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 2015 to 2019, new HIV diagnoses decreased 7% among Hispanic women and 11% among young Hispanic and bisexual men. While this decline shows the success of focused efforts, there is still much more work to be done because the statistic numbers are not dropping as they should.
Of the 29% of new HIV cases in the United States, 38% were in Hispanic youth between the ages of 25 and 34. According to Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, director of the CDC’s Division of HIV Prevention, “many social and structural factors, such as limited income and access to health care, housing instability, discrimination, homophobia, Transphobia and systemic racism have a significant influence on the general health of some Latino people and can be barriers to accessing HIV testing, infection prevention and eventually treatment ”.
These barriers can limit uptake of HIV services in a number of ways, including prevention: very few Hispanics know the benefits of, and use, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). Findings reflected in the Oct. 8 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC’s weekly report) indicate that in 2019, only 1 in 4 Latinos who underwent a CDC-funded HIV test knew about it. PrEP, and only 1 in 5 who were eligible for this preventive option were referred to specific providers of these treatments by their physicians.
CDC’s Stop HIV Together campaign addresses these health disparities and inequities. Some of its core strategies include:
- Implement HIV self-testing programs to make testing more accessible,
- Increase the availability of HIV prevention tools, such as PrEP, and
- Help people living with HIV stay healthy by quickly linking them to HIV treatment and care.
- Increase the education and use of PrEP, to achieve over 50% acceptance among those eligible to use this therapeutic resource
It can be prevented
In the world, 38 million people are living with HIV.
In 2019, 1.7 million people contracted the virus, and 690,000 died from AIDS-related causes.
In the United States, an estimated 1.2 million people had HIV at the end of 2018. But the number is believed to be much higher, because many do not know they carry the virus because they have never been tested.
While waiting for a vaccine To finally prevent the infection caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), a pill taken once a day can change the destiny of thousands of people.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a pill taken once a day that can be consumed by people who do not carry HIV, to have additional protection. It was marketed in 2012 in the United States, under the brand name Truvada.
In Latin America, Mexico, Peru, Agentina, Chile and Brazil, they have approved the use of PrEP and have government programs that finance it.
PrEP has been shown in clinical trials to reduce the risk of contracting HIV through sex by up to 90% when taken as prescribed.
To find out if PrEP is a good option, it is essential to talk with your healthcare provider about your own sex life – how many people you have sex with, whether or not you use a condom, or whether you have recently had a sexually transmitted disease. let the doctor decide whether to recommend it or not.
Answers about HIV
(Excerpted from MedlinePlus, the United States National Library of Medicine)
What is HIV?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a virus that damages the immune system by destroying a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infection. This puts you at risk for serious infections and certain types of cancer.
What is AIDS?
AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It is the final stage of HIV infection. It occurs when the body’s immune system is severely damaged by the virus. Not all people with HIV develop AIDS.
How is HIV transmitted?
HIV can be spread in different ways:
- Through unprotected sex with a person with HIV. This is the most common form of transmission
- Sharing needles for drug use
- Through contact with the blood of a person with HIV
- From mother to baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding
Who is at risk for HIV infection?
Anyone can get HIV, but certain groups are at higher risk:
- People who have another sexually transmitted disease (STD). Having an STD can increase your risk of getting or transmitting HIV
- People who inject drugs with shared needles
- Gay and bisexual men, especially those who are African American or Latino
- People who engage in risky sexual behaviors, such as not using condoms
What are the symptoms of HIV and AIDS?
The first signs of HIV infection can be flu-like symptoms:
- Shaking chills
- Night sweats
- Muscle pains
- Throat pain
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Mouth ulcers
These symptoms can come and go within two to four weeks. This stage is called acute HIV infection.
If the infection is not treated, it becomes a chronic HIV infection. Often there are no symptoms during this stage. If left untreated, the virus will eventually weaken the immune system. Then the infection will progress to AIDS. This is the last stage of HIV infection. With AIDS, the immune system is severely damaged. You can get more and more serious infections, known as opportunistic infections.
Some people may not feel sick during the early stages of HIV infection. So the only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested.
How do I know if I have HIV?
A blood test can tell if you have an HIV infection. A healthcare professional can perform the test or you can use a home test kit. You can also use the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) test locator to find free test sites.
What are the treatments for HIV and AIDS?
Although there is no cure for HIV infection, it can be treated with medication, known as antiretroviral therapy. It can turn HIV infection into a manageable chronic disease. It also reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to other people.
Most people with HIV live long and healthy lives if they receive and continue antiretroviral therapy. It is also important that they take care of themselves. Having the support they need, leading a healthy lifestyle, and receiving regular medical care can help you enjoy a better quality of life.
Condoms, before, now and always
Consistent and correct use of latex condoms for men reduces the risk of contracting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and most sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
Unless the person abstains from sex, or is in a mutual monogamous relationship, protection must be constant, many STDs have no symptoms, so the person cannot even know that they carry an infection.
The effectiveness of condoms in preventing STDs and HIV has been demonstrated by both epidemiological and laboratory studies. The effectiveness of condoms is verified based on theoretical and empirical data on the transmission of different STDs, the physical properties of condoms and the protection or anatomical coverage they provide.
Laboratory studies have shown that latex condoms act as an effective barrier against even the smallest STD microorganisms.