The time to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic is now. In the U.S., many strides have been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, from the development of medical treatments to advances in behavioral research aimed at reducing risky behaviors. Progress is also evident in policies and initiatives that prioritize prevention and healthcare access services, such as the Housing Opportunities for Persons with HIV/AIDS (HOPWA) program first enacted in 1992, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009, the lifting of the federal HIV travel and immigration ban in 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the Affordable Care Act) signed into law in March 2010, and the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (the Strategy) released in July 2010.
However, the HIV/AIDS epidemic remains a serious public health challenge and continues to affect many Americans and their families, friends, and communities. This is particularly true for Latinos/Hispanics, who bear a large burden of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country. Latinos/Hispanics not only represent a disproportionate number of new cases of HIV, they also test at later stages after infection, and experience higher rates of premature death due to AIDS when compared to their counterparts in other racial/ethnic communities (Losina et al. 2009). These undesirable health outcomes are rooted in persistent structural barriers to health, including socioeconomic inequalities.
In July 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a comprehensive analysis indicating that only 80 percent of Latinos/Hispanics living with HIV are aware of their HIV positive status; of those a mere 26 percent have the virus under control. These estimates demonstrate a gap in care and retention and serve as a clear call for stakeholders to make measurable steps in addressing the continuum of care from diagnosis to viral suppression.
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