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Center on Halsted offers biggest-ever day of Latino AIDS awareness
by Gretchen Rachel Blickensderfer
2013-10-12

This article shared 3729 times since Sat Oct 12, 2013
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According to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hispanics/Latinos accounted for 20 percent of new HIV infections and 17 percent of reported cases in Chicago. More than one-half of HIV-infected young people in the United States have never received a test for the virus and, in 2011, an estimated 21 percent of Latino HIV-infected males did not know that they had the disease.

National Latino AIDS Awareness Day ( NLAAD ) was established in response to the impact of HIV and AIDS on Hispanic communities nationwide. Since NLAAD began in 2003, 350 events have been held in 45 states across the US, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. On Oct. 17, 3-8:30 p.m., the Center on Halsted will mark the 10th anniversary of the community event with a dramatically enhanced schedule.

There will also be free, rapid HIV testing as well as a community conversation to discuss the importance of HIV testing and awareness within the Hispanic/Latino LGBTQ community. The conversation will be moderated by Chicago Department of Public Health ( CDPH ) Deputy Commissioner Nanette Benbow; the keynote speaker will be CDPH Commissioner Dr. Bechara Choucair.

Appointed to the role in 2009, Choucair and the CDPH created "Healthy Chicago," a multifaceted public-health agenda that includes policy, programmatic, educational and public-awareness strategies as well as a call to action for Chicagoans to work together in making Chicago the healthiest city in the nation.

NLAAD has also added a resource fair open to Hispanic/Latino-serving organizations and those looking to work more closely within the Hispanic/Latino community. There will be an evening reception with performances and displays from local artists from the National Mexican Museum among others The after-hours HIV testing program for the Hispanic/Latino community, Centro de tu Noche ( "Center of Your Night" ), in partnership with Circuit Nightclub, will close the day.

"We've never done anything as big as this before." said Tom Elliot, director of public relations for the Center on Halsted. "In the past, we've organized events in the past around World AIDS Day and NLAAD, but this year we're working with a lot of other community organizations to make a full day out of it."

They include Access Community Health Network ( ACCESS ); aChurch4Me Metropolitan Community Church ( MCC ); the Association of Latino Men in Action ( ALMA ); CALOR; Chicago Department of Public Health ( CDPH ); Circuit Night Club; Lambda Legal; National Museum of Mexican Art; Project PrEPare; Project Vida; Queer Tango; Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center; Test Positive Aware Network ( TPAN ), United Latino Pride; and Vida/SIDA.

With so many organizations taking part this year, along with the Center's significantly enhanced social-media and marketing efforts, Elliot said he expects a large crowd.

Local NLAAD planning committee member Christian Castro said the growth is part of an unprecedented public-health drive to slow the spread of the disease and to help people with HIV live healthy and productive lives.

In keeping with the theme of NLAAD, "Commit to Speak," Castro said he hopes that the day will encourage advocates to reach across community lines. "A lot of community members sit in silos. We fail to see that we share common goals and interests with people down the street or in the next neighborhood." Castro said. "We need to be more collaborative in the goals of reducing the rates of HIV, and improving education and prevention strategies."

Hispanic Latinos still confront a number of challenges in reducing the spread of the disease and the CDC lists homophobia as among the harsh realities the community faces. Castro believes that the open conversations encouraged by NLAAD will help to reduce the fear and stigma attached to HIV.

Castro, who was diagnosed with HIV six years ago, encouraged anyone scared to get tested to come to the Center: "Once you know you have HIV, you become empowered to address the disease. You can speak to a healthcare provider in confidence and learn what your treatment options are." When a person is aware of his/her status, they are more likely to take precautions to prevent spreading their infection to others. Antiretroviral drugs can impede progress of the disease for decades.

Castro said that the Affordable Care Act will make HIV care more comprehensive and assist people who have lapsed on their medications to be re-engaged with a healthcare provider. He added it is only in the last couple of years that the government has taken a more active role in supporting awareness days such as NLAAD.

The partial government shutdown has affected HIV testing through agencies such as the CDC, but Castro said, "We hope that the shutdown is short, but we're going to continue the work we're doing."

For more information on Hispanic Latino AIDS Awareness Day, call 800-AIDS-AIDS or visit www.centeronhalsted.org .

Center on Halsted will mark National Latino AIDS Awareness Day ( NLAAD ) Thursday, Oct. 17, 3-8:30 p.m..

There will be a community conversation with the keynote speaker ( 3-4:30 p.m. ), a resource fair ( 5-7 p.m. ), an evening reception ( 7-8:30 p.m. ) and "Centro de tu Noche," an outreach/testing initiative in partnership with Circuit Nightclub ( 10:30 p.m.-2 a.m. ).

In addition, Center on Halsted will be offering free, rapid HIV testing 5-9 p.m. for individuals on a walk-in basis.


This article shared 3729 times since Sat Oct 12, 2013
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