Thursday, October 28, 2010

National Latino AIDS Awareness Day

By Carlos del Rio, MD
October 15, 2010 was National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD). For those of us who dedicate our work to helping our communities be better informed and protect themselves from HIV/AIDS, this day is a strong reminder of the challenges we still face in trying to prevent, treat and manage this disease. This national observance provides a good opportunity to not only recognize that HIV/AIDS continues to spread among Hispanics/Latinos across the country, but that we do not have a cure yet or an effective HIV vaccine to help control the epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Hispanics/Latinos continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. In fact, the rate of new HIV infection among Hispanic/Latino men is more than double that of white men and the rate of new HIV infection among Hispanic/Latina women is nearly four times that of white women.

The available therapies have allowed many with HIV infection to live nearly normal lives. However, because new infections have also continued, more people are living with HIV in the United States than ever before. While behavioral interventions and other preventive strategies will always be critical in fighting the spread of HIV, our best hope is to find a vaccine that can prevent HIV transmission. We must help protect the men and women of our communities by continuing to search for and support the efforts to find an effective HIV vaccine.

Currently there are HIV vaccine trials being conducted across the United States to discover a successful HIV vaccine that works for all people. However, these trials will only be successful if they enroll trial volunteers from all races and ethnicities. Because the safety of the participants is the highest priority, the HIV vaccines being studied do not contain the actual HIV virus, so they cannot cause HIV infection.

Community involvement and education are essential to the success of HIV vaccine research, and initiatives are underway to help people understand why HIV vaccine research is relevant to them and how they can support these efforts. Research shows us that one of the most trusted sources of information about HIV vaccine research is a person’s health care provider. As medical providers and even for those of you in the throes of your training, it is important that you learn as much as possible about this topic so you can be a leader and help support our nation’s efforts to end the HIV epidemic.

To learn more about HIV vaccine research in the United States and its impact on Hispanic/Latino communities, I encourage you to visit

Dr. Carlos del Rio is Professor and Chair of the Hubert Department of Global Health at the Rollins School of Public Health and Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Emory University School of Medicine. He is also Co-director for Clinical Science and International Research of the Emory CFAR