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Latino AIDS Awareness Day in Minnesota set for October 15

Wed, Oct 7th, 2009
Posted in State of Minnesota

For the seventh year, Minnesota joins the nationwide observance on Oct. 15 of National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) in response to the rising HIV infection rates among Latinos across the nation. This year's national theme is, United we can: Stop HIV and prevent AIDS.

Since 1982, according to Minnesota health officials, 610 Latino men, women and children have been diagnosed with HIV infection, including 129 who have died. Currently, there are 483 Latinos living with HIV in the state, including those who moved to Minnesota after they were diagnosed in other states. Statewide rates for Latinos are nearly five times greater than whites. In 2008, Latinos were also infected with 1,165 new cases of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.

"Know your HIV status by getting tested and always practice safer sex to prevent HIV and the other STDs," said Peter Carr, Section Manager, STD and HIV Section at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). "The earlier you test, the more beneficial the treatments will be. Unfortunately, many of our Latino residents are testing at late stages of their HIV infection."

Latinos had the highest percentage of "late testers" for HIV infection compared to all other population groups at 43 percent. That means many Latinos are testing years after they have become infected - missing years of beneficial treatment and opportunities to prevent HIV from spreading.

Health officials noted that studies show that early treatment for HIV can add years to one's life. Other STDs like syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia are curable with antibiotics. Too often there aren't any symptoms with these diseases so the only way to know is to get tested.

Testing opportunities are available specifically for Latinos from staff and clinics that understand the language barriers and can address other cultural issues faced by Latinos seeking HIV testing. To locate testing facilities, a bilingual campaign Web site has been set-up at www.NoMasHIV.com or www.nomasstds.com.

In addition, the STD and HIV Section at MDH currently funds 22 programs through 16 agencies aimed at preventing the spread of HIV in adults and young people of all races who inject drugs and/or engage in sexual behaviors that transmit HIV. The programs serving Latinos with HIV prevention efforts include Neighborhood House and West Side Community Health Services in St. Paul and Centro Campesino in Owatonna.

For NLAAD 2009, the Minnesota Latino HIV/AIDS Network - a local community-based planning committee - has set up a few HIV testing opportunities and exhibits. In addition, Gov. Tim Pawlenty has proclaimed Thursday, Oct. 15, as Latino AIDS Awareness Day in Minnesota.

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