60% of new AIDS cases in 2005 were among Latinos in Ventura County, California
Latinos represented about 14 percent of the nation's population, yet they accounted for 20 percent of AIDS cases diagnosed in 2004, according to a report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While Latinos represent 34 percent of the total population in Ventura County, 60 percent of new AIDS cases in 2005 were among Latinos, according to county Public Health's HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report.
The number of reported HIV cases among Latina women has also increased slightly, said Lynn Bartosh, spokeswoman for the county Office of HIV/AIDS Surveillance. She did not have specific numbers available.
In 2005, 24 percent of reported HIV cases in the county that year were women.
Bartosh said the fact that about one-quarter of the reported HIV cases diagnosed are women shows that more of them are getting tested.
"When we get results much quicker, we are able to get them into care quicker also," she said.
Nevertheless, the topic of HIV and AIDS remains taboo for many in the Latino community.
"Healthcare agencies are finding that many Latinos diagnosed with HIV and/or AIDS are ostracized by their families," said Susan Jensen, program manager for Ventura County AIDS Partnership. "They have no one to turn to for food or shelter. That happens very commonly."
Many also forgo medical attention because they might be undocumented immigrants who fear seeking help could be grounds for deportation.
Lack of transportation and language barriers also serve as roadblocks for many Latinos, Jensen said.
"A lot of them end up being diagnosed in the ER because they get an opportunistic infection," Jensen said. "This means a lot of them are not getting tested, and the disease sat through an incubation period of seven to 10 years."
To better understand factors that contribute to the spread of HIV and AIDS, California Lutheran University medical sociologist Adina Nack and independent research consultant Marilyn Gesh conducted a pilot study of 30 local Latino men living with HIV. Nack and Gesh will present their report at the summit.
The in-depth interviews for the pilot study began in February with men of varying ages and sexual orientation. The average age of the men in the study is 39, Nack said.
In the study, researchers asked the men how their life experiences as Latino men helped shaped their views on manhood, sexuality and the risk of contracting HIV.
Nack said the study touches on the Latino cultural phenomena of machismo.
"We asked the men about their views of infidelity and masculinity and how that plays into the idea of machismo," she said.
The machismo ideal doesn't stigmatize infidelity, Nack said. Combined with the belief that using condoms is unmanly, Nack said, the machismo "is a recipe for disaster when it comes to any sexual transmitted infection."
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