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Young Latino gay men account for nearly a third of new HIV infections, analysis finds

New analysis finds Latino community experiencing rise of new HIV infections
New analysis finds Latino community experiencing rise of new HIV infections 03:29

SACRAMENTO – More than 40 years since the start of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, studies now show HIV cases nationwide are decreasing, but there is one group seeing a growing number of new HIV cases.

This idea that if you're HIV-positive life is over, or the idea that if you're LGTBQ+ you're less than. That's far from the truth.

Jorge-Armando Diaz is speaking from experience as he was diagnosed with HIV 23 years ago.

"I was a college kid and I fell in love. I didn't have the education or tools needed and hiv entered our lives at a very young age," Diaz said.

Today he's living a healthy life and he's a leading voice as a mental health clinician and program manager at Nosotros VIHviendo, which translates to "living with HIV."

The program is part of Equality California, a civil rights group that advocates for LGBTQ+ individuals.

"The Latino community continues to be a culture where sexuality is not often discussed and a lot of times we have LGBTQ+ youth who are Latino who are often rejected by their families or their church," Jorge Reyes Salinas said.

Reyes Salinas is the communications director at Equality California in Sacramento.

He says the Nosotros VIHviendo program, launched two years ago, works with grassroots organizations to break down barriers of stigma in Latino communities.

"To ensure they know where to go in case of testing, in case of prep, pep, and to also understand what their rights are," Reyes Salinas said.

Diaz is lending his voice, uplifting others dealing with the same cultural pressures he faced growing up in his family home.

"I came from a family, I came from a culture that told me, 'Don't walk like that, don't talk like that, don't dance like that, don't be like that,' " he said.

According to the CDC, an estimated 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV. Between 2012 and 2022, new HIV infections nationwide decreased by 23% largely due to advanced medical treatments.

However, a new analysis by KFF Health News and the Associated Press found that while African Americans still have the highest HIV rates overall, Latino gay and bisexual men accounted for 33% of new HIV diagnoses and infections in 2022.

So, what's driving the numbers and disparities?

"Lack of awareness, lack of education, especially lack of acceptance, even within the Latino community," Reyes Salinas said.

"There's family rejection there, there's immigration issues there, there's homelessness there, there's all kinds of things there, there's machismo, the impact of machismo there," Diaz said.

So what are some of the solutions in bridging the gap in HIV awareness and care?

"It's word of mouth, people telling other people about these resources and that's really how the LGBTQ+ community survived the HIV/AIDS epidemic, right? Having each other's back and ensuring there was open communication within that community," Reyes Salinas said.

"We need to start changing Latino culture, we need to start changing what it is and what it means to be gay and to live with HIV. There should be no shame in that," Diaz said.

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