HIV Infection Rates in Latinos and Why We Need a Vaccine

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May 16 2013

HIV & Latinos

For more than three decades, HIV/AIDS has had a tremendous impact in communities around the world and in the United States, including the Latino community in Los Angeles County.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2009 (the year of the most recent data available from the CDC), Latinos accounted for 20% of the new HIV infections while representing approximately 16% of the total US population. The HIV infection rate among Latinos in 2009 was nearly three times as high as that of Whites (26.4 versus 9.1 per 100,000 population). 

In that year, Latino men accounted for 79% of the new infections among all Latinos. The rate of new infections among Latino men was two and a half times as high as that of White men (39.9/100,000 versus 15.9/100,000).  While Latina women accounted for 21% of new infections among Latinos in 2009, their rate of HIV infection was more than four times that of White women (11.8/100,000 versus 2.6/100,000). 

Fortunately, scientists and researchers have made much progress in finding ways to prevent the spread of HIV and also in developing treatments for those living with the virus.  However, historically, no disease has been eradicated without a vaccine. Vaccines have been successful in helping to control epidemics and saving the lives of many people worldwide. Finding a safe and effective HIV vaccine is challenging, but very important for achieving the goal of the eventual eradication of HIV.

May 18th is HIV Vaccine Awareness Day. This annual observance is a day to recognize the contributions of thousands of volunteers, community members, health professionals, research scientists, and government officials who are committed to working together to find an HIV vaccine.  Although we do not have an HIV vaccine available yet, each vaccine research study provides scientists with a wealth of data and information that help them better understand how to develop a safe and effective vaccine that works for everyone. While some HIV vaccine studies have shown us which vaccines do not work, a study known as RV144 demonstrated that an HIV vaccine is possible. That study yielded important findings that give us clues about what may be necessary to make a vaccine successful. Future vaccine studies are building on the results of RV144.

Despite the significant advances that have been made in medical treatments for people living with HIV, this will not be enough to control the epidemic. Today, more than ever, scientists are committed to exploring other ways to prevent the transmission of HIV. Finding an HIV vaccine may be the best weapon for stopping the epidemic worldwide.

This article was written by Frank Galvan, Director of Research and Evaluation, Bienestar Human Services, Inc.

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