| 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),
part of the National Institutes of Health, is proud to commemorate
the second annual National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD), Oct.
15, 2004, along with hundreds of national, regional and local HIV/AIDS
groups, state health departments and faith-based organizations.
This day of observance is an opportunity to bring together community,
scientific and religious leadership to focus on the current state
of HIV/AIDS in Latino communities across the nation. The theme for
this year’s commemoration is “Abre Los Ojos: El HIV
No Tiene Fronteras” (“Open Your Eyes: HIV Has No Borders”).
The Latino community is one of several communities that have been
disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Although Latinos represent
approximately 13 percent of the U.S. population, they accounted
for 18.5 percent of the estimated 886,575 AIDS cases diagnosed since
the beginning of the epidemic and 19.6 percent of the 42,136 estimated
cases diagnosed in 2002 alone. While Latino men continue to account
for most new AIDS cases within the Latino community, Latinas are
beginning to account for a growing number of cases. In 2002, Latinas
represented almost one-quarter of new cases diagnosed among all
Latinos. Latino youth ages 19 and under accounted for 19.7 percent
of new AIDS cases diagnosed in that age group on 2002.
Latino communities face a set of unique challenges in their fight
against HIV/AIDS. Issues such as cultural stigma associated with
HIV/AIDS, language barriers, lack of access to adequate healthcare,
and high poverty levels have contributed to the impact of HIV/AIDS.
Latinos continue to get tested later in their illness than African
Americans and whites despite the fact that one-third of Latinos
identify HIV/AIDS as the most urgent health problem facing the Nation.
Even in the face of such challenges, much progress has been made
by Latino communities in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Latino organizations
at the national, regional and local levels have been working tirelessly
to address some of these challenges. Through their work they have
begun to reduce HIV-related cultural stigma and remove the barriers
to effective prevention, care and treatment that exist within the
Latino community. Over the past year, NIAID has partnered with many
organizations across the Nation that serve Latino communities. These
partnerships were designed to educate and promote awareness of research
that scientists believe one day will eliminate the threat of HIV
among Latinos and in all populations. Through the HIV Vaccine Communications
Campaign, NIAID is helping local organizations such as Mujeres Unidas
Contra el SIDA in San Antonio, Texas, and national organizations
such as the Latino Commission on AIDS, increase awareness among
Latinos of the important ongoing research to develop a preventive
HIV vaccine. It is important to encourage those in the Latino community
to get involved as volunteers in ongoing HIV vaccine trials. With
continued support from NIAID, 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.
On Friday, October 15th, I invite people all over the country to
commemorate National Latino AIDS Awareness Day, to demonstrate your
support and commitment to eliminating HIV/AIDS not only in the Latino
community, but also from all communities throughout the country
and the world.
The Department of Health and Human Services is also hosting a Web
site devoted to NLAAD at www.omhrc.gov/hivaidsobservances/nlhaad/index.html.
This Web site contains information about HIV/AIDS, testing and vaccine
research, as well as a media tool kit to help local groups organize
and publicize their own NLAAD.
Dr. Fauci is the Director of the National Institute of Allergy
and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland. NIAID is a component
of the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services. NIAID supports basic and applied research
to prevent, diagnose and treat infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS
and other sexually transmitted infections, influenza, tuberculosis,
malaria and illness from potential agents of bioterrorism. NIAID
also supports research on transplantation and immune-related illnesses,
including autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergies. Press releases,
fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the
NIAID Web site at http://www.niaid.nih.gov.