Statement of Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.|
Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
on National Latino AIDS Awareness Day
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is proud to commemorate the first National Latino AIDS Awareness Day, October 15, 2003, along with hundreds of national, regional and local HIV/AIDS groups and state health departments. This day of observance is an opportunity to bring together community, scientific and religious leaders to focus on the current state of HIV/AIDS in Latino communities across the nation.
The Latino community has been disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. While Latinos account for 14 percent of the U.S. population, they accounted for nearly 20 percent of total AIDS cases reported in the United States in 2001.
HIV/AIDS has taken the largest toll on Latino men, who through December 2001 accounted for 80 percent of AIDS cases reported among all Latinos. In 2000, HIV/AIDS was the second leading cause of death for Latino men ages 35 to 44 years old, and the fourth leading cause of death for Latino women in this same age group. Through December 2001, Latino women accounted for 20 percent of AIDS cases reported among all women, and Latino children for almost 15 percent of AIDS cases reported among all children.
Latino communities face a set of unique challenges in their fight against HIV/AIDS. Issues such as cultural stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, lack of access to adequate healthcare and high poverty levels have contributed to the impact of HIV/AIDS. Even though nearly one-third of Latinos continue to identify HIV/AIDS as the most urgent health problem facing the nation, Latinos continue to get tested later in their illness than African Americans and whites.
Despite such challenges, we have made significant progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS. In the United States, prevention efforts have achieved a measure of success in many settings, although much work remains. In recent years, we have seen the positive effects of advances in HIV therapies for so many living with HIV/AIDS, and the promise these medicines offer for those in the developing world. But prevention and treatment are only part of the answer. We must do all we can to find a vaccine to prevent HIV infection. With NIAID funding and in partnership with industry, academia and the community more than 20 promising HIV vaccine candidates are in clinical trials. It will be through efforts such as National Latino AIDS Awareness Day that we will be able to educate the community about the advances and opportunities for progress in vaccine research, as well as in HIV prevention and treatments.
By commemorating National Latino AIDS Awareness Day, the hundreds of community, religious and HIV/AIDS groups demonstrate their ongoing commitment to eradicating the disease. The continued support of the Latino community is critical in our effort to address the HIV/AIDS crisis among Latinos in this country, and I praise their hard work and continued commitment.
Dr. Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. The National Institutes of Health is an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services.