From Stigma to Hope

José López Zamorano

The Spanish network

About a quarter of a million Latinos and Latinas live with HIV in the United States.

Although the diagnoses among Latinas have decreased by 16%, cases with homosexual Latinos in the period 2010-2014 increased by 13% in the same period. There is no doubt that HIV still poses a serious threat to public health.

And the fact that HIV affects us not only disproportionately, but that 8 out of 10 Latinos and Latinas living with HIV suffer from the stigma of negative feelings for their situation. They feel embarrassed, guilty or have no self-confidence, which is an additional barrier to being tested or seeking treatment.

Roberto, a Central American immigrant, came to the United States 38 years ago and for years suffered from the stigma that he was HIV positive and undocumented. For a long time he lived in the shadow of depression until he found a helping hand at a community clinic in Washington.

"The man does not like to twist his arm because they believe that diseases will affect their status, there are people who do not know the language well, or the help they can get.It is very important that they speak, that they communicate what they feel, "he says.

With professional medical help and effective treatment, Roberto shows undetectable levels of the virus after almost four decades. Although she now has health insurance, she does not leave her community clinic. "It is just my second home, here I received warmth, love … and a lot."

In order to put Latino's as Roberto aside the stigma of HIV, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), pioneers in scientific research on HIV / AIDS, launched the National AIDS Awareness Day under Latinos & # 39; s. on October 15, under the slogan "Let's stop HIV together".

The campaign provides the Spanish-speaking community with the information and tools needed to combat the disease and invites the public -families, friends, neighbors, co-workers – to work together to defeat HIV. About two in ten Latinos do not know that they carry HIV, so the first step is to be tested.

"The treatments continue to improve: people who are diagnosed today can live nearly as much as their friends and loved ones who are HIV-negative, and if they take their medication as prescribed and achieve viral suppression, they can not transmit HIV to others, says Julio Fonseca of the Positive Organizing Project of AIDS United.

Julio was diagnosed in 2009 and, as in the case of Roberto, the treatments reduced the virus to an undetectable level. "My wish is that there is a real conversation about HIV and treatment, so that stories like mine will remain a distant memory of a disease from a bygone age."

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