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.
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.