SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Leaders of Springfield’s Latino community reminded residents of the serious HIV-Aids problem that still exists in the city. The New North Citizens’ Council observed national Latino HIV awareness day on Friday.
The council’s Terry Rodriguez recalled the day she learned of the Latino community’s first case of aids back in 1980. “We got a phone call from the Brightwood Clinic telling our director Barbara Rivera that we had HIV and no one wanted to help them.”
It wasn’t long before the Citizens’ Council began working with Baystate Medical Center and other health agencies with testing programs. Springfield honored community activist Luz Aponte for her seventeen years of service helping to educate the neighborhood.
Educator Richard Johnson has seen the opioid epidemic trigger an unforeseen rise in HIV/AIDS cases. “What happens is they let down their inhibitions,” he explained, “and sometimes participate in higher risk activities that lead to the transmission of HIV.”
Hector Santiago told 22News that neighborhood health programs helped him kick his drug habit. “I went to jail for it,” he said, “because I violated probation, because of the addiction, and the opioids. Then I came here and they told me about the program.”
The north end citizens council celebrated the work it’s done helping keep the community healthy, and the work that’s still to be done.
Though only 17% of the U.S population, Hispanics/Latinos bear a disproportionate burden of HIV. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2014, Hispanics/Latinos accounted for almost 25% of all estimated new diagnoses of HIV infection in the United States and 6 dependent areas. Factors such as stigma, language barriers, and lack of access to health care contribute to Hispanic or Latino HIV infection rates.
For more information on HIV health and prevention visit TapestryHealth.org