On the eighth annual National Latino AIDS Awareness Day, we extend our compassion to the members of this community who are living with HIV/AIDS, and we redouble our commitment to fight the epidemic in this population, which carries a disproportionate burden of HIV/AIDS.
Reducing the number of HIV-related deaths among Latinos and other communities at high risk for HIV infection is a national imperative. Since AIDS was first recognized, an estimated 106,000 Latinos with the disease in the United States, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories have died through the end of 2007.1 Moreover, among individuals with diagnosed HIV infection, Latinos have the second highest death rate of all racial and ethnic groups.2 The National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies are confronting this tragedy in many ways, including through the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Part of the plan for implementing this strategy calls for developing approaches to better monitor key measures of health that must be improved in Latinos and others with HIV infection so they can live long, vibrant lives.
Another goal of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy is to increase by 20 percent within five years the proportion of HIV-diagnosed Latinos whose virus is suppressed to such low levels that it is undetectable by standard laboratory tests. To achieve this goal, antiretroviral treatment must be accessible and affordable to all who meet the medical criteria to receive it. In addition, individuals who are diagnosed with HIV infection must promptly obtain medical care, consult with a health care provider on whether to start treatment, and stick to their treatment regimen once they begin it. In many cases these steps are not taken or are taken late in the course of infection. As a consequence, between 1996 and 2005, nearly 50 percent of Latinos with an HIV diagnosis progressed to AIDS within three years.3 The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of NIH, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention soon will launch a pilot study designed in part to test the feasibility and effectiveness of strategies to promptly link HIV-diagnosed individuals to medical care and improve adherence to HIV treatment. This study is known as HPTN 065, or TLC-Plus.
Women of color, including Latinas, are among those at highest risk for HIV infection in the United States. Latinas acquired HIV at nearly four times the rate of white women in 20064 and were diagnosed with AIDS at five times the rate of white women in 2007.5 To overcome these disparities, NIAID is funding studies designed to control the HIV/AIDS epidemic specifically among Latinas and other women of color. For instance, the Women’s HIV Seroincidence Study, also known as ISIS, seeks to learn how to deliver urgently needed HIV prevention and treatment services to women who live in largely minority neighborhoods in inner cities and are at high risk for HIV infection. In addition, Latinas compose 27 percent of the participants in the Women’s Interagency HIV Study, which has been researching the impact of HIV infection on women in the United States for more than 17 years with funds from NIAID and other NIH institutes.
Latinos participate substantially in NIAID’s HIV/AIDS clinical trials. While Latinos make up an estimated 15.5 percent of the U.S. population,6 they account for 19 percent of the U.S. volunteers in studies conducted by the NIAID HIV/AIDS clinical trials networks between Oct. 2008 and Sept. 2009. I thank Latinos for their high level of clinical trial participation, which helps ensure that the results of the studies will be relevant to them.
Today, as we recognize the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on Latinos and especially the women among them, let us rededicate ourselves to bringing our best HIV prevention and treatment resources to this minority population.
Dr. Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.
Media inquiries can be directed to the NIAID Office of Communications at 301-402-1663, firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. CDC. 2010. HIV Surveillance Report, 2008. Vol. 20. Table 12b.
2. CDC. 2010, Table 11a.
3. CDC. 2009. Late HIV testing—34 states, 1996-2005. MMWR 58(24):661-665.
4. CDC. 2008. Subpopulation estimates from the HIV incidence surveillance system—United States, 2006. MMWR 57(36):985.
5. CDC. 2009. HIV surveillance report, 2007. Vol. 19.
6. U.S. Census Bureau. 2008. Hispanic population of the United States.