HIV in the Latino Community


Sandra Gordon

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HIV—the virus that causes AIDS—can affect anyone. More than 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with the infection. And one in seven people doesn’t know he or she is infected. 

But some ethnic groups are affected by HIV more than others. Hispanics, for example, make up just 17% of the U.S. population, yet they account for 21% of the country’s new HIV infections each year. Roughly one in 50 Hispanics will be diagnosed with HIV during his or her lifetime.

Thanks to years of research and discoveries, we know a lot more about HIV than we did decades ago. Keep yourself safe and healthy by knowing the facts about HIV.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Oct 23, 2015

Men who have sex with men have the highest risk of contracting HIV. But, it should be pointed out, women aren’t immune, either. In fact, the rate of new HIV infections among Hispanic women is four times that of white women.

Why the High Rate of Infection Among Hispanics?

The reasons for the spread of HIV among Hispanics are complex. One reason is that HIV and homosexuality still have a stigma associated with them in the Latino community. This stigma may deter some men from learning how to prevent the infection, getting tested, and seeking treatment.

Hispanic communities may also struggle with poverty and lack of access to health care. These factors can prevent people from seeking treatment.

Protect Yourself and Others from HIV

You can help stop the spread of HIV.

1. Recognize your risk. Reducing your risk for HIV starts with knowing that you’re vulnerable. You may have a higher risk if you:

  • Have anal, vaginal, or oral sex—especially if you’re not in a mutually exclusive relationship with someone who isn’t infected, or if you have multiple sex partners.

  • Have other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). You’re more likely to get HIV if you have another STD, such as herpes. This is because the same behaviors that put you at risk for herpes, such as having sex without a condom, can also increase your risk for HIV, and because having sores or broken skin helps the HIV virus pass more easily.

  • Share needlesor other drug-injecting equipment with someone who has HIV. This includes syringes and rinse water.  

2. Practice safe sex. Only engage in sexual activity with a partner who you know isn’t infected. If you’re not in a mutually exclusive relationship, or you don’t know your partner’s HIV status, use a condom every time you have anal, vaginal, or oral sex.

3. Get tested. If you don’t know if you have HIV, find out. For a testing location near you, visit Type in your ZIP code and you’ll get a list of local testing sites, including those that offer free testing. If you have health insurance, your health plan must cover the cost. Some states also offer anonymous testing, which means your test results aren’t tied to your name. Instead, you get a unique identifier that allows you to get your test results. Call the CDC at  1-800-232-4636 to find anonymous testing sites in your area.

4. Get tested again. You tested negative? Great news! But if you continue engaging in risky behavior, you need to keep getting tested. If you have unprotected sex with someone whose HIV status you don’t know, you have a history of STDs, or you share needles, syringes, or other equipment for injecting drugs, you should get tested at least once a year.

5. Seek treatment. If you test positive for HIV, life-extending treatment is available. There’s no cure for HIV, but medication is available to help control the virus and protect your immune system. It can help you live longer, reduce the chances you’ll spread the virus to others, and reduce your risk of developing other illnesses.

Key Takeaways

  • Hispanics make up just 17% of the U.S. population, but they account for 21% of the country’s new HIV infections each year.

  • Some reasons HIV hits Hispanics hard: Many Hispanic communities don’t have access to health care and there is a stigma associated with homosexuality and HIV among Hispanics.

  • You can take steps to help stop the spread of HIV, such as practicing safe sex, getting tested, not sharing needles, and seeking treatment if you test positive for HIV.

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Medical Reviewers: Robert Williams, MD Last Review Date: Mar 16, 2015

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View Sources

Medical References

  1. HIV Testing: Question for the doctor. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  2. Overview of HIV Treatments.
  3. Confidential & Anonymous Testing.
  4. HIV Testing Frequency.
  5. HIV Test Locations.
  6. HIV Transmission. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  7. HIV in the United States: At a Glance. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  8. HIV and AIDs among Latinos. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  9. STDs and HIV – CDC Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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