Changing Patterns of Diagnoses and Prevalence of HIV Infection Among Latinos Indicate Need for More Effective Prevention Intervention Strategies for Targeted Communities

Research and Journal Articles

Latinos are disproportionately affected by HIV infection in the United States. The rate of HIV infection in 2013 was nearly three times that of non-Hispanic whites according to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The report indicates that although there was a decrease in the HIV infection among Latino adults and adolescents over the years 2008-2013, the decrease was not uniform across all affected Latino communities. The CDC offers recommendations for effective prevention intervention strategies which target specific communities.

The number of diagnoses of HIV infection among men from male-to-male sexual contact increased 16%, due either to increased incidence of infection or an increase in testing. HIV infection attributed to injection drug use was still higher among Puerto Rican men and Puerto Rican and U.S. born women than those born elsewhere, but the largest declines in the number of HIV infections during the period were among men and women where the infection was attributed to injection drug use. According to the report, a noted change in HIV transmission patterns occurred over the period with a majority of HIV infections among Puerto Rican-born males was attributed to male-to-male sexual contact rather than injection drug use. Nearly half of all diagnoses among Latinos during the period occurred among immigrants not born in the U.S. and more than two-thirds of infections within this community were among men who have sex with men.  In 2013, the rate of diagnoses among males was six times the rate among women, while the largest number of diagnoses among men was attributed to male-to-male sexual contact and, among women, from heterosexual contact.

The report recognizes that developing effective prevention intervention strategies must take into the specific characteristics of high risk populations within the Latino community, such as non-U.S. born immigrants and injection drug users. For example, prevention intervention must account for socioeconomic factors among the immigrant population such as the large percentage of non-English speakers, limited access to health care, lack of health insurance, and poverty. And, while there has been a decrease in HIV infections attributed to injection drug use, HIV care providers should take note that levels of linkage to and retention in care, use of antiretroviral therapy and viral suppression are lower among Latinos with HIV infection attributed to injection drug use than those with infection attributed to male-to-male sexual contact.