A new study released by the Latino Commission on AIDS and the Hispanic Health Network, explored the challenges of aging Hispanics with HIV and it found that culture plays a big role in preventing some from getting the treatment they need.
Rafael Gonzalez, the Education and Intervention Manager at Desert AIDS Project, told us he didn’t even know what HIV was when he was diagnosed.
To make matters worse, before before he could wrap his head around that, his doctor gave him the news he feared most.
"I was diagnosed with AIDS, I had pneumonia and meningitis. I was really bad."
On top of dealing with coming to terms with the illness, he also had to accept his new reality after the diagnosis pushed Rafael out of the closet.
"I couldn’t talk to any friends that I had at the time and I couldn’t leave the house. That was not okay…I couldn’t be gay and that’s kind of what our culture wants us to do. We can’t tell people we’re gay, we have to be masculine, we have to be a man."
This is a problem that particularly impacts the Hispanic community.
In fact, a new study revealed that aging Hispanics with HIV oftentimes don’t get treated because they are either out of a job, don’t have health insurance, or feel ashamed of showing weakness. Stephanie Cienfuegos, the Community Health Educator at Desert AIDS Project, tells us there are more barriers that Hispanics face that prevent them from getting tested.
"When we seek healthcare, we are looking for somebody who can speak our language, who we can communicate with."
Barriers that inevitably put Hispanics at risk, but despite all of the struggles, as Rafael tells us, there’s always hope for a better life.
"There was a time that I thought this was a death sentence and that I was going to die pretty soon. Now, I am kind of more worried about living, so now I’m going to live. I’m going to live until I’m old."
The Desert AIDS Project does have free support groups where people can come in and talk about what it’s like living with the virus. They also offer other services and testing every day for anyone who needs help. All you have to do is take that first step and come in.
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