AIDS Rising Among Colorado Hispanics

January 2005

The number of HIV/AIDS cases in Colorado has been declining for the past ten years. But some experts are worried that it seems to be rising among the Hispanic population

...the statistics do show that Hispanics are a growing percentage of the new cases of AIDS and HIV that have been diagnosed in recent years," said Bob Bongiovanni of the state's AIDS division. "So, while the overall number of people with AIDS has been declining, the Hispanic portion has held steady, giving them a growing percentage of the cases.". Health Department officials noted in 2001 that gay Hispanic men (aged 30 to 39) were reporting the fastest growing incidence of new HIV cases.

The health official quoted in the article attributes the larger proportional rate among Hispanics to denial--and says it's more of a problem in Colorado than New York:

"Some of the things we have learned over the years is the Latino community still attaches a strong stigma to homosexuality and discussions of sex in general," he said. "Latinos would rather talk about the new babies that are the result of all the sexual activity than talk about the dangers of disease and the need to practice safe sex.".... "What I found surprising is the level of education, of the willingness to talk about AIDS and HIV in the Latino community hasn't changed much in Colorado since the 1980s," he said. "By comparison, the Latino community in New York seems much better informed on how to prevent HIV." Del Mazo said the cost of that denial is that HIV and AIDS are fueling an increasing number of HIV cases among Hispanic women. "Many of the infected men also have women partners who are contracting the virus," he said.

Also troubling health officials is a growing complacency by the public about anti-viral drugs used to combat HIV and AIDS. 100 people a year die in Colorado from AIDS:

ds to know the drugs do not work for everyone and even when they do, they must be rigorously used to be effective," Dillon said. "We still lose 100 people a year in Colorado to AIDS, despite all the available drugs."

There are 8,000 people with HIV/AIDS in Colorado. The drugs cost a whopping $1,200 to $1,500 a month. In 2004, federal aid to help patients meet their expenses was cut 10 percent. The Pueblo office of the Colorado AIDS Project, with 110 patients, is closing this month. The Colorado Springs office will try to fill the gap for them.

..the office provided help with everything from transportation to medical appointments, food stamps and even medical expenses for the uninsured.

AIDS/HIV is a scourge we need to keep on our radar screens. It hasn't gone away and those who are afflicted need the help of the community.