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Latino HIV/AIDS Crisis Demands Attention - Health Care Professionals from Across the United States Gather in New York City for National Conference on Latinos and AIDS to Address Concerns

NEW YORK, Sept. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- To educate healthcare professionals on how to improve the Latino community's access to HIV/AIDS treatment and care, Minority Health Care Communications (MHCC) will hold the National Conference on Latinos and AIDS, September 14-15th, 2009, at the New York Academy of Medicine in New York.

It is the first time for the conference in New York, and the location is significant, says conference Director K. Mary Hess. "We need a comprehensive campaign that allows for tailoring to the many cultures within the Latino Community. New York is the perfect example of a bellwether city, where trends and needs often emerge ahead of the curve for the rest of the country."

The continuing lack of unrestricted access to all forms of HIV prevention, education, testing, and medical care for undocumented Latinos has created an "invisible" parallel HIV epidemic, Hess added. "Health care providers and leadership from the Latino AIDS community will discuss federal policy issues that most impact the Latino community and need to be addressed so that we can halt the continued spread of this epidemic."

The conference will feature expert presenters from across the U.S. and will update participants on the incidence and management of HIV/AIDS, provide current guidelines and cutting-edge clinical methods, current research regarding drug abuse and its connection to the epidemic, social and psychiatric concerns of the infected patient, policy initiatives, trends and political issues that impact patients.

Less than a year after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recalculated the size of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and announced that there were 40 percent more new HIV infections each year than previously believed, a 2009 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that Americans' sense of urgency about HIV/AIDS as a national health problem has fallen dramatically and their concern about HIV as a personal risk has also declined, even among Latinos who in recent years had expressed more concern than Caucasians.

In reports recently released by the CDC, the extent of the HIV/AIDS epidemic among Latinos/Hispanics was made more apparent and reinforced the need for immediate action. Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S. represent 15.3% (U.S. Census Bureau) of the population but account for 19.0% of people living with AIDS and now are reported to be 18.0 % of those living with an undiagnosed HIV infection.(1)

To further complicate matters, while all state and local health departments (including the District of Columbia, and 5 U.S.-dependent areas) report HIV and AIDS diagnoses to the CDC, only 34 states that have been conducting name-based HIV surveillance for at least four years are included in the estimates for HIV cases (to allow for reporting adjustments and stabilization of the data) and these figures do not reflect the true magnitude of the epidemic. Currently states/areas like California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts and Puerto Rico with large Latino populations are not included in the surveillance data, which means that while HIV Latino statistics are alarmingly high, they could actually be higher.

This conference brings to the forefront, the need to focus attention on how communities of color and more specifically Latinos are disproportionately impacted by this epidemic. HIV/AIDS has taken a tremendous toll on Latino communities. Oscar Lopez, Director of Health Policy at the Latino Commission on AIDS stated, "We as a community and as a country need to make HIV a priority and ensure access to health care."

Minority Health Care Communications, Inc., is a non profit health education organization focused entirely on the creation and promotion of specialized healthcare education conferences, seminars, and workshops on HIV/AIDS and Cancer in the African-American and Latino communities.

(1) Figures for people living with AIDS and those living with an undiagnosed HIV infection are not inclusive of HIV infection data from Puerto Rico.

SOURCE Latino Commission on AIDS
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