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Centro Hispano mural

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The story painted within a vibrant mural outside of the Centro Hispano building at 810 W. Badger Road is a familiar one to many members of Madison’s Latino community.

It is a story of immigration, of migrant workers on Wisconsin farms, of adapting to a new community and setting a path for a better life.

The mural, titled “Story of Immigration” and installed in June 2013, shows migrant workers on Wisconsin farms tending fields and hauling produce to a canning factory.

Farther down the painted path, a family is seen seeking out Centro Hispano for help adjusting to new customs, a new language and a new environment. The story continues with images of a family celebrating with new college graduates.

Most importantly, the mural tells the story of how one generation endured hardship and difficulty so their children might pursue a better life.

Created in 1983 by a group of community volunteers, Centro Hispano is dedicated to assisting families with education, jobs and youth programs, while serving as a resource for the Latino community.

As Madison’s Latino population has grown, adding to the richness of the cultural fabric of the community, Centro Hispano has expanded along with it.

At the end of the mural is a quote from Cesar Chavez emphasizing giving back and investing in the community.

“We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community,” it reads. “Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”

A common reaction to the idea of contracting HIV and AIDS is denial, said Bianca Rodriguez, healthcare program specialist at Centro Hispano.

“People don’t think that it will happen to them … they’re like, ‘I don’t have to worry about that,’” Rodriguez said.

But Rodriguez has friends who are HIV positive and experienced a close friend passing away from AIDS.

“HIV is real and it is a chronic illness that can be prevented,” she said, and it disproportionately affects Latinos.

That’s why Rodriguez is excited to announce that Centro Hispano, at 810 W. Badger Rd., will host free HIV/AIDS testing from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 15 as part of National Latino HIV/AIDS testing day.

It’s the first time Centro is hosting an HIV testing, which will be offered in collaboration with the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin.

“This event, for me it’s huge,” Rodriguez said. “HIV is not something that we talk about, so this event will bring awareness to a chronic illness that is affecting our community greatly.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV “continues to be a serious threat to the health” of Latinos. Latinos made up 26 percent of new HIV diagnoses in U.S. states and dependent territories in 2016, and about 17 percent of Latinos with HIV do not know they have the disease, the CDC says.

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These statistics are not a surprise to Rodriquez, who aware of the barriers that can prevent Latinos from accessing health care.

Those can include language barriers, undocumented status and poverty, the CDC said. And as with all ethnicities, stigma, fear and homophobia can put individuals at higher risk of infection. Rodriguez added that it can be hard for underrepresented populations like Latinos to find a doctor who looks like them and understands their challenges.

But Centro is a place that feels like home to many local Latinos, Rodriguez said, so they may feel more comfortable receiving HIV/AIDS testing and preventative information there.

The testing is free and confidential, and involves a simple finger stick and a 20 minute wait. Attendees will also be tested for Hepatitis C. While they wait, attendees will receive health education about preventative measures to guard against HIV and other STDs, Rodriguez said.

Attendees don’t have to be members of the Latino community, Rodriguez said; anyone is welcome to participate.

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