Wednesday, October 10, 2007

October 15 - National Latino AIDS Awareness Day

October is a busy month in terms of diversity. Next Monday, October 15, is National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) - a day where the Latino community across the country comes together to recognize the need for awareness regarding HIV/AIDS.

Today, Hispanics comprise 14 percent of the U.S. population – an impressive number. But, with growing power comes an acknowledgement of growing problems – the community accounts for some 20 percent of all AIDS cases in the U.S.

Clearly, in the Hispanic communities around the country, when it comes to HIV/AIDS, we have work to do.

The rapidly growing Hispanic community has translated into a rapidly growing cable and communications industry, one that now has tremendous resources, access, influence and reach to do something about the epidemic in the communities they serve.

For the last several years Cable Positive has been working with the leaders in this industry – like Univision and Telemundo – to combat the rapid spread of this disease among the Hispanic population.

Working closely with the National Latino AIDS Commission, Cable Positive created, produced and distributed Spanish Language PSAs to 350 markets and 1,000 AIDS organizations across the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, with the active participation of many Spanish Language networks and systems – but there is still more work to do.

We need to join each other in the fight against this disease now, more than ever, because we have so much more work to do. We need to find “new reservoirs of compassion,” as the Latino AIDS Commission eloquently says in their campaign, to increase our political voices and confront many of the difficult issues deemed unmentionable for generations among Latinos, including drug use and sexuality.

In Puerto Rico, for example, 49 percent of HIV transmissions are a result of injection drug use, despite the perception that AIDS is still a gay disease. Such stigma forces some families to change the cause of death on death certificates, and costs many young Latinos their lives because they are too ashamed to get tested for HIV or get the medicines that can save them.

Networks and systems that are specifically targeting the Hispanic communities have a tremendous power: the power to save lives. They have the power to correct the misperceptions among Latinos when 31 percent of the population believes that HIV is transmitted by touching a toilet seat; when 38 percent believe HIV can be contracted by kissing, and 23 percent believe you can get HIV by sharing a glass of water.

Together, we have much work to do in improving the lives of Hispanics, to educate our communities all about HIV/AIDS.

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