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HIV/AIDS Growing Problem Among Latinos, Particularly Women, National Latino AIDS Conference Delegates Say

May 26, 2004

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HIV/AIDS is a growing and "frightening" problem among Latinos in the United States, particularly women, Miguel Gomez, director of the HHS Office of HIV/AIDS Policy's Leadership Campaign on AIDS, told delegates at the first-ever National Conference on Latinos and AIDS, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. About 400 HIV/AIDS advocates, educators, health care workers and other professionals are attending the two-day conference, according to the Inquirer. Although Latinos represent only 13% of the U.S. population, they account for 19% of the country's new HIV infections. In addition, AIDS-related illnesses represent the fourth leading cause of death among Latinos ages 25 to 44, according to CDC, the Inquirer reports. Gomez said that the United States has "lost the war on HIV/AIDS" because the country records about 40,000 new HIV cases each year. Many conference delegates expressed concern about "barebacking" -- men having sex with men without using condoms -- and "being on the down low" -- men who have sex with men but maintain a "public relationship" with a wife or girlfriend. David Lopez of the AIDS Service Center of New York City said he also sees "HIV fatigue" among young people who have grown "tired" of hearing about safe sex and decide to no longer use condoms, according to the Inquirer. Cynthia Gomez, co-director of the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies at the University of California-San Francisco, said that Latino culture often "stifles" discussion of HIV/AIDS with "silence, denial and guilt," according to the Inquirer. She said that Latinos must use "blunt talk" with children and that women should "demand" HIV testing for their sexual partners, according to the Inquirer (Smith, Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/25).

NPR's "Tavis Smiley Show" on Tuesday included an interview with Dennis de Leon, president of the Latino Commission on AIDS, and actress Lupe Ontiveros, who has appeared in the films "As Good as It Gets" and "Real Women Have Curves," about HIV/AIDS in the Latino community (Smiley, "Tavis Smiley Show," NPR, 5/25). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.

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