National Latinx AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD)(Latinx is a gender-neutral term encompassing Latino/Latina.)

Each year, National Latinx AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) is observed on October 15th. It is coordinated by the Latino Commission on AIDS, and this year’s theme, “Ending HIV is Everyone’s Job”, draws our attention to global, local, and community actions necessary to end the US HIV epidemic.

Past efforts have produced positive results: from 2011-2015, HIV diagnoses remained stable across all the Latinx community and Latina women’s new diagnoses declined 14%. However, during that same time frame, diagnoses for gay and bisexual Latino men have increased 13%, increasing across almost all age ranges with a 21% increase between the ages of 25 and 34. Among all Latinx with HIV in 2015, only 59% received medical care in 2015 and only 50% achieved viral suppression. In 2016, Latinx individuals accounted for 26% of new diagnoses, despite only representing 18% of the national population. The disproportionate impact on the health of the Latinx community is evident. There are several barriers to the Latinx community in accessing care—language, education, poverty, immigration status—and these barriers are only increasing in difficulty.

Just five days ago, on October 10, 2018, the Trump Administration published a proposed rule in the Federal Register of the new Public Charge policy, “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds”. Public Charge policies determine how use of public benefits may affect an individuals’ ability to enter the United States or one’s ability to gain legal permanent resident status (LRP), i.e. green card. The policy, in essence, tries to determine whether someone will become a “public charge” or “burden” on the government through use of federal government benefits. Under the proposed rule, previously excluded programs, including Medicaid, going forward would count against immigrant applicants. This is a public health concern and directly targets the most disproportionately impacted groups such as the immigrant Latinx community. While certain groups of immigrants are exempt, misinformation and language barriers often create panic in communities. Legal aid practitioners and community health advocates have noticed that some clients have begun refusing HIV medication and housing assistance for fear that they would lose all chance of becoming a permanent resident. This sort of chilling effect is a public health concern—such policies fail communities such as the Latinx immigrant community, and increasing barriers to care only creates a downward spiral.

It is more important now than ever to focus our attention on the Latinx community—for allies to support the Latinx community by advocating for accessible health care and education, particularly regarding HIV and AIDS, and for all community members to take action. Whether it is simply having a conversation about using protection with a potential partner or getting on the right HIV treatment with a doctor’s help, all these actions matter. Latinx health matters and, collectively, we can change the course of HIV history.

This blog post was co-authored by Airin Chen, a second-year law student at Georgetown Law and a research assistant at the O’Neill Institute.