The Latino population remains disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS in the United States. Although only 16 percent of the US population, Latinos accounted for 20 percent of new HIV infections in 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
On Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, the nation will call attention to this public health crisis with National Latino AIDS Awareness Day. This year’s theme is “Commit to Speak” or “Comprométete a Hablar.” AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) Network staff took the campaign’s message to heart producing a video in Spanish thanking past study volunteers and encouraging Latinos to become involved in research to further improve the treatments available to people living with HIV.
“The participation of Latinos, especially Latina women, in research and our Community Advisory Board is important because we need to know how HIV uniquely affects them,” says Sylvia Davila, Study Coordinator at the ACTG’s University of Puerto Rico (UPR) School of Medicine AIDS Clinical Trials Unit. “This helps us develop the best treatment plan and medication dosages. It is also important for us to know the quality of life that Latinos living with HIV experience. We can only find this information through clinical trials and community advisory board involvement.”
When compared to other ethnicities in the United States, Latina women are four times as likely as white women and Latino men are two and a half times as likely as white men to become infected with HIV, according to the CDC. Latino men also account for 20 percent of new HIV infections among men who have sex with men (MSM).
ACTG Network Chair Daniel Kuritzkes, MD, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, says in the past seven years, Latinos have accounted for 20 percent of the ACTG’s study participants. The ACTG’s has 45 research sites at universities and hospitals around the country researching how HIV affects people by gender, age and ethnicity in an effort to develop the most effective treatment regimen.
Daniel Casiano, RN, has spent the last 20 years working as a research nurse at the ACTG’s UPR site. He says the research advances into how HIV affects Latinos is a credit to the men and women who have volunteered for a study or served on the Community Advisory Board (CAB).
“With your help, we can improve medications and look for better alternatives so that the life of people living with HIV improves,” says Casiano. “Without your help, this work cannot be done. We are infinitely grateful for your collaboration and for trusting us.”
Internationally, the ACTG has 25 sites, including locations in Lima, Peru. The Network also provides funds annually to help mentor beginning researchers through the Minority HIV Investigator Mentorship Program (MHIMP).
For more information about the ACTG’s clinical trials, CABs and the MHIMP, visit http://actgnetwork.org/