National Latinx AIDS Awareness Day

October 15 is National Latinx AIDS Awareness Day

In 2019 (the last year for which information is available), 29 percent of new HIV infections in the United States occurred among Hispanics, but Hispanics comprised only 18.4 percent of the US population.  The disproportionate burden of HIV among Hispanics is even more marked in Massachusetts, In 2019, 30 percent of new HIV infections in Massachusetts were in Hispanics, but Hispanics comprised only 12.4 of the Massachusetts population.  Hispanics are also less likely than non-Hispanics (i) to know if they have HIV infection, (ii) to be on treatment if they are infected, and (iii) to be on fully effective treatment if they are receiving treatment.

For all of these reasons, it is most important for members of the Latinx community to understand how HIV infection is acquired, to know whether or not they are infected, to know how to prevent HIV infection in themselves and others, and to know how to obtain treatment if they are infected.

How is HIV infection acquired?  Most HIV infections are transmitted sexually, either between men who have sex with men or between men and women.  HIV is also transmitted by contaminated needles.  Lastly, HIV can be transmitted from an infected mother to her unborn or newborn child, but this is now rare in the USA.

How can you find out if you have HIV?  HIV testing is readily available through healthcare facilities such as Whittier Street Health Center. So everyone who may have been exposed either sexually or by needle use can find out if they have HIV by getting tested.

How can HIV be prevented?  The most effective ways to prevent transmission of HIV are (i) to use condoms 100% of the time if you have sex with someone who is not known to be HIV-negative, (ii) to use a new sterile needle for any injection, and (iii) never to share drug injection equipment or supplies.  If you have HIV, you can avoid transmitting HIV to others by being on treatment that keeps your HIV viral load undetectable.  If you do not have HIV and are exposed to someone who has or may have HIV, both pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP therapy) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) can prevent HIV transmission.  PEP should be started as soon as possible, but no later than 72 hours after exposure.  Both PrEP and PEP are available at Whittier Street Health Center.

How is HIV infection treated, and is treatment effective?  Highly effective treatments for HIV that are simple to take and well tolerated are now available.  With effective treatment, most people with HIV infection can now live long and healthy lives.  Effective treatment can also prevent people with HIV from transmitting HIV infection to others, including their HIV-uninfected partners.  Effective treatment also enables HIV-infected people to have families with little risk of transmitting HIV to their unborn or infant children.

Treatment for HIV requires thorough evaluation by expert healthcare providers and careful health monitoring at regular intervals.  HIV treatment is available at Whittier Street Health Center. Testing and Counseling services are readily available during walk-in hours- Monday-Friday: 8:30 am-4:45 pm. Anyone with questions or needs around PrEP navigation, sexual health, STD transmission, condom distribution, and/or experiencing any symptoms are strongly encouraged to walk in or to call (617)-308-0060.

A note about Whittier and COVID-19

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in our area, we ask all clients and patients to call ahead before coming to any of our sites. We are working to take care of most clients/patients via phone/video encounter so we can meet your ongoing healthcare needs. This is for your safety and so we can provide the highest quality of care to you while following CDC guidance for COVID-19. Please call 617-427-1000 for any questions or concerns.

Whittier will provide COVID-19 testing from 10 am to 4 pm on Monday to Friday. Following CDC guidance, we recommend testing if you have a fever AND one of the following three symptoms: cough OR shortness of breath OR sore throat. Please bring your picture identification and your insurance card (if you have insurance).