Disclosure: This post is made possible by support from the We Can Stop HIV One Conversation at a Time campaign. All opinions are my own. I remember the whispers when I was growing up. About people getting sick. But it was like speaking it out loud was a sin. "El SIDA" they would say. At first it was with a particular population but eventually, it was hitting the "regular" folk. And the whispers continued.
Latinos are heavily impacted by HIV/AIDS. Just as with "taboo" subjects like depression, we find ourselves whispering about HIV/AIDS. Instead of being open and putting the cards on the table. It's time this stops.
More than 1.1 million people are living with HIV in the United States and about 50,000 people become infected each year. As Hispanics/Latinos, we account for 21% of these new HIV infections. Anyone can be affected by HIV regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, or marital status, but at some point in life, an estimated 1 in 36 Hispanic/Latino men and 1 in 106 Hispanic/Latina women will be diagnosed with HIV.
That's the reality.
I still recall that day when my friend told me he was HIV positive. He was washing my hair, as he always did. And I was so grateful that he felt comfortable enough to talk to me about it. To share his diagnosis with me.
But how many in our community go through this alone? Moreover, how many will be infected because of lack of knowledge or because they are not empowered to speak up?
I remember educating my mom about HIV. Talking to her about some of her friends. Speaking about people in the community that were affected. I'm glad I could talk to her about it but I know plenty of people that were never able to discuss these things with their parents, or anyone else in the community for that matter.
Let's be part of the solution. Find resources to help us open up about this subject. One conversation can save a life. And it's not going to start with a stranger. It's going to start with those closest to us.
If you need information on how to start the conversation, head on over to the CDC site. And check them out on Facebook and Twitter. Even if you've had the conversation, there might be someone around you that hasn't.