Thursday, October 13, 2005

October 15: Latino AIDS Awareness Day

To coincide with Latino AIDS Awareness Day on October 15, Dan Kuninsky of the Vanderbilt HIV Vaccine Program at the Vanderbilt-Meharry Center for AIDS Research sent this article reviewing the disease's disproportionate impact among Hispanics. The Vanderbilt HIV Vaccine Program is also accepting volunteers to participate in vaccine studies (see below).

How is HIV/AIDS affecting Hispanic communities?

The AIDS crisis is not over and HIV/AIDS continues to disproportionately affect minority communities, including Hispanics. While Hispanics represent 14% of the United States population, they accounted for approximately 21% of HIV infections reported in 2003. Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) and injection drug users continue to be at a high risk for HIV. However, the heterosexual transmission of HIV is increasingly becoming a major source of HIV infection among minority groups in the United States, including the Hispanic community. In 2001, HIV was the third leading cause of death among Hispanic men between the ages of 35 and 44 and the fourth leading cause of death for Hispanic women in the same age group. An estimated 92,000 Hispanics with AIDS in the United States have died. Underlying conditions such as language or cultural barriers, higher rates of poverty and substance abuse, and limited access to, or use of, health care may lead to delays in seeking treatment which may contribute to the high numbers of AIDS-related deaths. Studies have also shown that Hispanics are more likely to be tested for HIV late in their illness, and that by the time Hispanics test for HIV, they are more likely to be diagnosed with AIDS.


Why do we need a HIV preventive vaccine?
· There is NO cure for AIDS. While the availability of anti-retroviral therapy has had a dramatic impact on decreasing AIDS-related deaths in this country, these treatment regimens are complex, costly and in many cases can cause serious side effects. In addition, the development of drug resistance is common.

· Developing safe, effective and affordable vaccines that can prevent HIV infection in uninfected people is the best hope for controlling and/or ending the AIDS epidemic.

· The long-term goal is to develop a vaccine that is 100 percent effective and protects everyone from getting infected with HIV. However, even if a vaccine only protects some people, it could still have a major impact on the rates of transmission and help in controlling the epidemic. A partially effective vaccine could decrease the number of people who get infected with HIV, further reducing the number of people who can pass the virus on to others.

· Like smallpox and polio vaccines, a HIV preventive vaccine could help save millions of lives.

· An HIV vaccine may also be beneficial for HIV-infected individuals by helping to delay the onset of AIDS or slowing disease progression. These types of vaccines are referred to as "therapeutic" vaccines. It is not known if a HIV preventive vaccine will have a therapeutic benefit in HIV-infected individuals. This would require additional clinical trials in those populations.

The Vanderbilt HIV Vaccine Program is looking for healthy, uninfected people, aged 18-50, of both sexes, including all ethnic and racial backgrounds and from all walks of life, to become study participants. Before a person enters a study, it is thoroughly explained and all their questions are answered. Participating in a study is completely voluntary.

If you would like to receive more information, call (615) 322-HOPE (4673), 1-888-559-HOPE (4673), or e-mail Josh Barnes at

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