National Latinx AIDS Awareness Day is observed on Oct. 15, or the last day of National Hispanic Heritage Month.
It is a day set aside to raise awareness of HIV among Hispanic/Latino people. It is also an opportunity to encourage the use of HIV prevention and treatment methods in the Latino and Hispanic communities.
As of 2019, a quarter of the people with HIV identify as Latino or Hispanic. One in six of them does not know their HIV status.
There are many reasons for this disparity, says Arianna Lint, CEO of Arianna’s Center, a community-based organization that provides advocacy, education and training, case management, and linkage to care for transgender men and women in South Florida.
“Language is a barrier for some Latinos,” Lint said. “So is a lack of information. You can find whatever you need in English, but it can be difficult for Latinos in the United States to find what they need in Spanish.”
Lint is a worldwide ambassador for the campaign U=U. It stands for Undetectable = Untransmittable. U=U is transforming what it means to live with HIV.
As living with HIV becomes more manageable, there’s still a real effort to prevent people from contracting the virus.
“We want to end the epidemic,” said Lint. “There are people who don’t have HIV but they don’t have access to PrEP right now. They are vulnerable communities. They are new immigrants or undocumented people. There are many people in need and we are serving those populations.”
Access to PrEP is challenging for many reasons. There is a lack of education. It is supposed to be free with private insurance, but often, there are out-of-pocket costs associated with laboratory tests or medical visits. Health care access is challenging for many people, and even harder for vulnerable populations.
Arianna’s Center is stepping in to fill a void there too.
“We are going to start something historic,” said Lint. “We are going to become a pharmacy. We are going to provide medication to our clients, along with the social services they need for adherence. Our clients will have access to PrEP along with hormone replacement therapy."
Having people seek out services remains a challenge too because of the stigma that still surrounds HIV.
“As a transgender openly living with HIV, I think HIV is not the problem,” Lint said. “The problem is not being educated about HIV. If you know about your labs, if you know about what's going on. We want to end the HIV epidemic. That happens when Latinos get united, when African Americans get united, and when the LGBTQ communities get united. You cannot stop HIV if you cannot touch those communities. Working together is important.”