Relationship Between Medical Access and HIV in Latinos is Studied

WINSTON­SALEM, N.C. (ConCienciaNews)

Two years ago, Jose Garcia found out what HIV and AIDS mean. It was something he had never heard of until the day he was diagnosed with the diseases.

His lack of concern was so prominent that in 12 years, he had never visited a doctor until he felt sick: he had noticed spots on his skin and could not go to the bathroom. But it was too late.

Garcia alternated working in the countryside and running a tobacco packing machine to send money to his family in Guatemala. The disease took him by surprise, as he considered himself to be a completely healthy man.

These kinds of cases have led Wake Forest University Medical Center to conduct a study to identify whether a lack of access to medical care contributes to the fact that Latinos represent the highest mortality rate in patients with HIV, the virus causing AIDS.

“I hope this study helps Latinos in danger so that they will not continue with these disproportionate figures,” said Scott D. Rhodes, professor and study leader.

According to Rhodes, due to the increase of the Hispanic population in North Carolina, the number of sick people has increased. “We want to identify why Latinos do not visit the doctor or undergo exams to determine whether they have HIV. We still do not know whether it is due to a lack of trust in doctors and nurses. There are many factors,” he said.

According to a report from the Center for Diseases Control, Latinos represented 20% of the new cases reported in 2004. This means four times more than non-Hispanic Caucasians.

“My friends do not know anything about this disease, either. Every time we went to bars, we never used protection,” said Garcia, who says he is heterosexual.

Another of the reasons why Latinos do not visit the doctor is the lack of information in Spanish, the lack of medical insurance and the fear about their immigration status.

“For instance, here in North Carolina, there is a lot of information on diseases, but in English. How is a person who does not speak English supposed to learn about the disease?” said Rhodes.

According to Rhodes, the solution for this problem is to have better medical translation services and more interpreters, and to ensure that medical services do not depend on peoples’ immigration status.

“We need people to trust in us and to know they can gain access to medical services. The current system confuses us and I think that is normal.”

For the study, at least 200 patients with HIV, such as Garcia, or patients with a high risk of being infected, were interviewed.

“This study will answer our concerns,” Rhodes concluded.