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Celebrating Minority Health: HIV in Hispanic & Latino communities

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – While HIV is no longer considered an inevitable death sentence, it’s still a major problem. When population is considered, HIV disproportionately impacts minorities including Hispanics and Latinos who are considered part of an invisible crisis.

In Indiana one in four people with HIV are Hispanic. Experts say getting control of the statistic matters now because in a few years, Hispanics will be the majority.

Outreach groups and doctors say resources for treatment and testing are available and everyone is encouraged to use them.

There are about one million people living with HIV in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 240,000 more don’t know they have it.

“People of color are facing the brunt of this,” said Malinda Boehler with Eskenazi Health.

Since the devastating and deadly HIV outbreak of the 1980s, there have been major developments in treatment. And those who get treatment can now live long and healthy lives.

“HIV is still a major problem in our community. It’s clear that stigma also plays a role. I think people are afraid of being judged,” Boehler said.

The Hispanic and Latino community makes up part of the so-called Invisible HIV crisis. In Marion County, Hispanics make up 10% of the population but account for 15% of HIV cases.

Data suggests poverty, education and language barriers contribute to fewer people getting testing and treated.

“It’s very important for us to let everyone know that testing is absolutely free,” said Juan Sanchez with the Damien Center.

The CDC reports that Hispanic men between ages 25 and 34 make up the largest number of new cases, resulting in about 25% of new overall infections.

“I see that at the testing center very often. I think people are afraid of reaching out,” said Sanchez.

Outreach groups and doctors are urging the higher-risk groups like people who are married to someone who is HIV-positive or men who sleep with men to take advantage of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis).

“It is an HIV medication, you take one pill once a day and it’s taken by people who do not have HIV or HIV negative and it’s to prevent HIV infection and if you take it correctly it virtually eliminates your risk of acquiring HIV,” said Boehler.

Data shows that black gay men still have the highest rates of infection. White heterosexual women have the lowest.