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.