Friday, 26 September 2014

Farmworker Justice invites all of our partners to actively join in observing National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day this Saturday, September 27th.
In the United States the gay and bisexual community continues to be disproportionately burdened by the AIDS epidemic.

The CDC reports gay and bisexual men, as well as other men who have sex with men (MSM), comprise approximately 2 percent of the U.S. population yet accounted for 62 percent of the nearly 50,000 new HIV diagnoses in 2011.

Latino men who have sex with men face significant risk for HIV. In 2011, men accounted for 84 percent of new diagnoses within the Latino community, and of these infections 79 percent were attributed to male-to-male sexual contact. An estimated 1 in 36 Latino men will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime. Among Latino gay and bisexual men, the majority of new infections are occurring in young adults between the ages of 25 and 34 years.

HIV risk is further exacerbated by the homophobia, stigma and discrimination that continues to be perpetuated against the gay and bisexual community, in particular towards men of color. Latino men who have sex with men are particularly vulnerable to racial stigma and discrimination within the Latino community, as well as from the broader gay and bisexual community, which in turn lends to increased social isolation and consequent negative health outcomes. Without support of family, friends and their community, Latino gay and bisexual men are less likely to openly discuss and practice HIV prevention behaviors or to get tested. 

We can all play a part in putting an end to the AIDS epidemic by taking the time to learn about HIV in the gay and bisexual community, and taking a stand to stop stigma and discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Start today by getting more information:

  • Razones/Reasons: The CDC’s HIV prevention campaign targeting Latino gay and bisexual men.
  • Sin Vergüenza/Without Shame: A telenovela series produced by AltaMed, which tells the story of a family in which each member is susceptible for HIV, and highlights the importance of being honest and getting tested.
  •  Find a testing site near you! 

Farmworker Justice has partnered with CDC's Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative (AAALI), a multi-year national communication initiative to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS among diverse communities.

by Caitlin Ruppel
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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Today, September 18th, marks National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day, a campaign initiated by the AIDS Institute seven years ago. The theme for this year is “Aging is a part of life: HIV doesn’t have to be!”

The CDC estimates that there are 1.1 million people currently living with HIV in the United States, and of these individuals, 1 in 6 are unaware of their positive status. Minority populations continue to be disproportionately burdened by HIV/AIDS, in particular the Latino community.

Although Hispanics represent 16 percent of the U.S. population, they account for an estimated 21 percent of new HIV infections each year and approximately 19 percent of individuals living with HIV in the United States. It is anticipated that 1 in 50 Latinos will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime.

Resources available for HIV prevention campaigns and interventions are frequently targeted towards youth and young adults. These segments of the population warrant unique attention and education about prevention, care and treatment; however, it is equally important to acknowledge the reality that HIV infection remains a risk regardless of one’s age, gender, race or ethnicity.

In 2010 the CDC found that adults over the age of 55 years accounted for approximately one-fifth of the U.S. population living with HIV. Of the 47,500 new infections which occurred that year, Latino men and women accounted for 16 percent.

The importance of communication regarding HIV cannot be sufficiently emphasized, particularly inter-generational dialogue. Older adults experience many of the same risk factors as young adults and youth, such as: stigma and discrimination, engaging in higher risk sexual behaviors, and a lack of access to information and culturally sensitive care.

Engaging in conversation about HIV/AIDS diminishes stigma, and correlates with increased knowledge and practice of preventive behaviors such as increased condom use and more frequent testing. These factors are all associated with reduced rates of HIV transmission and consequently fewer infections across all age groups.

To encourage Hispanics/Latinos to speak openly with their families, friends, partners and communities about HIV/AIDS, the CDC recently launched a national communication campaign titled Podemos Detener el VIH Una Conversación a la Vez/We Can Stop HIV One Conversation at a Time. A variety of resources are available for use via the CDC Act Against AIDS campaign webpage. These include but are not limited to: posters, brochures and Public Service Announcements (PSA) which highlight important facts and messages about HIV/AIDS.

Farmworker Justice is proud to participate in this campaign, and to collaborate with our Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative partners, National Hispanic Council on Aging and Aspira, to engage in and promote conversation about HIV/AIDS amongst Latino adults ages 50 and over.

by Caitlin Ruppel
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Friday, 27 June 2014

Today is National HIV Testing Day, a day that focuses on the importance of knowing your HIV status and encouraging others to get tested. It is also a day to remember and reiterate to everyone that HIV testing saves lives. When a person is diagnosed with HIV early on and begins treatment early (and remains on treatment), he or she has a much better chance of living to a normal life expectancy. Plus, when a person knows they are HIV positive, they are more likely to take steps to protect their partners.

So, why is this important to farmworker organizations and supporters? The truth is, it is much more difficult for farmworkers and other rural or mobile populations to find a testing location, get to the testing location, receive a HIV test in their native language, be able to access HIV medication, and be able to take their medication consistently for the rest of their life. Those are a lot of barriers and not every farmworker will encounter all of them (and maybe a lucky few won’t encounter any of these), but as organizations interested in the lives of farmworkers and their families, these are barriers that make it difficult for farmworkers to find out their status and remain healthy if they test positive

HIV testing is the first step in the HIV Care Continuum, a model the government uses to look at the challenges and opportunities related to the care and treatment of people living with HIV. After testing positive for HIV, there are four more steps: linkage to care, staying in care, getting on HIV drug therapies, and maintaining a low amount of HIV virus in the body. Sadly, the numbers consistently drop. Of those who test positive for HIV, less get linked to care, and less of those linked to care stay in care, and less of those who stay in care get on HIV drugs, and even less maintain a low amount of virus.

Many farmworkers are not even able to get to that first step – getting tested and knowing their HIV status. However, just like many others in this country, many farmworkers are at risk for HIV. And if they do test positive, they have a much harder time getting linked to care, staying in care, getting HIV drug therapies, and maintaining a low HIV virus in their body. Some farmworkers that do find out they are HIV positive decide to return to their home country (where hopefully they will receive treatment and care), but some choose to stay here.

There is a lot of things we, as farmworker organizations, can do to help farmworkers overcome some of these challenges. We know that many farmworkers do not go to health centers or health departments regularly, and when they do, the first thing on their mind is most likely not an HIV test. However, they often interact with other social service organizations like attending ESL classes, getting involved in their children’s schools, and talking to lawyers about work issues. If we could use these avenues to encourage and organize HIV testing and education (through job fairs, school fairs, referrals, medical-legal partnerships, etc.), we could make great strides in helping farmworkers to know their HIV status. From there we could concentrate on some of the other steps mentioned above in the Continuum of Care, like helping HIV positive farmworker get linked to care, stay in care (for example, linking them to care in another State if we know they are heading north for a few months), help find ways to get on affordable life-saving drug therapies, and encouraging them to take their medication as directed.

Farmworker Justice is working hard, through a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative (AAALI) grant, to educate and assist non-HIV organization in how they can play an important role in HIV prevention. As part of our AAALI work, we will be sponsoring free, confidential HIV testing at the National Council of La Raza’s Latino Family Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, CA from 19-21 July from 10:30am – 6pm. HIV testing will be done by AltaMed. Throughout the Expo we will also be sponsoring a booth and activities to highlight HIV/AIDS prevention. We look forward to seeing you there!   

by Kattrina Merlo
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