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Community gets together to help end stigma surrounding HIV

HIV rates rise in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania
and last updated 2019-10-17 12:48:00-04

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story used the incorrect headline, "1 in every 4 Latinos are HIV positive and don’t even know it," which is obviously inaccurate. According to the CDC, one in six Latinos with HIV don't know it, and one in four Latino gay or bisexual men are at risk for HIV in their lifetime. KGUN 9 has corrected the story and regrets the error.

CLARIFICATION: On statistic regarding national Latino Aids Awareness Day

TUCSON, Ariz. -- One in every six Latinos who are HIV positive do not know their status, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Now the community is opening up the conversation about its effects and what we can all do to prevent it.

A community dinner was hosted at Culinary Dropout Tuesday evening as part of National Latino Aids Awareness Day.

Local leaders debunked myths surrounding HIV and AIDS in an effort to help end the stigma.

Cesar Egurrola, the Clinical Coordinator at the Peterson HIV Clinic says, medical advancements have made things a lot easier for people living with HIV.

“HIV is not a death sentence,” added Egurrola.

In fact, nowadays, if you test positive for HIV, you can live a normal life with treatment, but you have to get tested.

“Every person who is HIV positive, if they were taking medications, they wouldn’t be able to pass the virus to other people,” Egurrola told KGUN9.

In Pima County 3,300 people are living with HIV and there’s about 30 new infections every year. But given medical advances, why are HIV diagnosis on the rise, especially in the hispanic community?

“We don’t want to talk about gay sex in Hispanic families. We don’t want to talk about sex at all,” said Egurrola

As a result, Egurrola says HIV becomes stigmatized. A reason behind why health experts wanted to host a dinner to separate fact from fiction.

NOT True:

  1. It’s so expensive to get treatment
  2. HIV can be transmitted through sweat
  3. HIV can be transmitted through a hug
  4. HIV can be transmitted if you share utensils
  5. Only same sex couples have HIV

TRUE:
In order for the virus to be transmitted it would have to be through someone who is not on their meds and through blood contact, semen, or vaginal fluids.

Erika Solis, the Program Manager at El Rio Community Hospital, tells KGUN9 people in heterosexual relationships, single males, and single females can all test positive for HIV.

“HIV does not discriminate. Anyone can test HIV positive if they are not taking preventative steps or are under treatment.”

Debunking these myths is only half of it. Egurrola says spreading the facts, getting tested at least every six months, and being prepared helps break the stigma.

“So PREP, people can take a pill once a day that prevents HIV and PEP is for if you’ve been exposed to HIV, you can take medication for 28 days that would prevent an infection,” he added.

If a person tests positive for HIV, the virus can go undetected within 30 days-- with treatment. Which means there is no way to transmit HIV to a partner.

You can find places for treatment and testing below:

  • PEP Navigation: go to Banner Emergency Department within 72 hours of possible exposure
  • PrEP Navigation: Southern Arizona Aids Foundation (520) 628-7228

Testing:

  1. COPE Community Services (520) 798-1772
  2. Pima County Health Department (520) 724-7770
  3. Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation (520) 628-7223

Treatment:

  1. El Rio Special Immunology Associates (520) 628-8287

2. Petersen HIV Clinics (520) 626-8598

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