Latino AIDS Awareness

By: Lauren Zakalik
By: Lauren Zakalik

All it takes is a quick prick on the finger to test for HIV/AIDS. But in mid-Michigan's Latino community, it's going to take more than that to curb the growing epidemic.

"Locally, Latinos comprise 3 percent of the state population, but Latinos comprise 4 percent of AIDS-infected people in the state," says Ligia Romero of Lansing Area AIDS Network.

Local health workers provided free HIV/AIDS testing Sunday at Cristo Rey Church in Lansing. Romero says Latinos and Hispanics are growing increasingly susceptible to AIDS for two reasons.

"We're in denial, we don't want to face the fact it could happen to us. The other reason is lack of education. Our communities need to be a little more educated, our schools, our churches, our communities of faith really need to be educated in regards to HIV and how it affects us."

There are an estimated 610 HIV-infected Latinos living in Michigan. This number may seem small, but comparatively it's huge. For every 100,000 Latinos, 188 are infected. But only 74 out of 100,000 white people have HIV/AIDS. And the group most affected may be surprising.

"In the Latino community, it's females. Female youth, ages 13-18 are mainly affected," Romero says.

The Latino AIDS epidemic in Michigan is part of a bigger problem.

"Ingham County is in the top three counties of HIV prevalence in the state," says AIDS health worker Andre Russ.

As of July, there were more than 16,000 HIV-infected people living in Michigan. Almost 500 of those were in Ingham County. And the problem extends beyond state lines. Romero says the increase in HIV/AIDS cases is a national trend, affecting all states.

But AIDS workers and the Hispanic-Latino communities hope free HIV screening and extensive education will help in the battle against the colorless killer.

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