Texas saw nearly 4,400 new cases of HIV in 2017, with 133 of those diagnosed being in El Paso. This 33 percent increase has gotten the attention of the City of El Paso Department of Public Health.
HIV Prevention Program Manager Irene Ovalle said the 30+ percent increase means more people are getting tested, and the community is working hard to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The agency, in conjunction with other organizations and in response to National LatinX AIDS Awareness Day, worked to increase awareness about situations that Latinx/Latina and Latino people face in every aspect of the HIV epidemic.
Organizers of the event called “Living With HIV or Not… We’re Fighting This Together,” said it was important to highlight the barriers facing Latinos, increasing their chances of catching HIV. Some of these barriers include low healthcare access, language barriers, stigma, no insurance, lack of proper documents, hesitation in speaking with doctors and other healthcare officials as well as family and friends.
Ovalle said the latest immigration policy trends have kept many Latinos, Latinas and Latinx people to avoid getting medical help or get tested due to their immigration status. She said most people are unaware that HIV testing services are provided no matter what a person’s income or immigration status is. Ovalle said people who fail to get tested end up suffering health complications and spread the disease to unsuspecting people.
The HIV Prevention Program held free and confidential rapid HIV Testing Oct. 15 and 16. The agency is united to provide tools to fight the spread of HIV in the community and eliminate the stigma assigned to HIV and AIDS.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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