$357K Federal Project Will Use Spanish Ads to Promote Condoms Among Gay Foreign-Born Men

July 2, 2013 - 1:52 PM


(CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – The National Institutes of Health is spending $375,087 on a grant that will target Spanish-language ads at gay “foreign-born” men to persuade them to use condoms and get tested for HIV.

CNSNews.com spoke with Dr. Maria Rosa Solorio of the University of Washington, principal researcher in charge of the ad campaign, who acknowledged that cultural attitudes are largely responsible for gay Latino men’s reluctance to take advantage of free government programs designed to stem the HIV epidemic.

“We’ve identified that [gay, foreign-born, Latino] men have very negative attitudes, beliefs, and norms towards HIV testing.  And so we are trying to develop a campaign that reframes those negative attitudes and beliefs and norms with positive ones, and where you see a marketing mix to promote HIV testing and to promote condom use,” Dr. Solorio told CNSNews.com.

Asked why gay Latinos seem reluctant to seek HIV testing, Dr. Soloria said that “the biggest barrier” is that these men “really fear rejection from their loved ones, from their partners, from their friends, from their family, if they seek testing and they turn up positive.  And, I think, when you put all those fears together, that is what’s holding a lot of the men back.

“With Latinos there’s different subgroups, of course. There’s the U.S.-born Latinos and the foreign-born Latinos.  We’re targeting the foreign-born Latinos who tend to be Spanish-speakers and this is the population that’s known to have – to be low income, to have low levels of education, [and] have problems accessing health care services.”

CNSNews.com asked Dr. Solorio if the ad campaign would specifically  be targeting illegal aliens.

“Yes, definitely… among the foreign-born, there are subgroups: some are documented, some are undocumented.  And those who are undocumented have very limited access to the health care system.  And therefore, those undocumented are thinking, ‘Well, if I seek testing and I turn up positive, then what?  How am I gonna pay for treatment?  So what benefit comes to me for seeking timely testing?’”

The six-month ad campaign will place public service announcements on Latino radio stations in the Seattle, Washington area and on websites oriented towards gay, Spanish-speaking Latinos.  Researchers will also place posters up at events for gay Latinos, Dr. Solorio said.

The website, which will be launched in the coming weeks, will feature “humorous” stories in Spanish illustrating the need for this demographic to seek HIV testing and treatment.  Presently, Dr. Solorio and her team of researchers are testing the efficacy of their stories with focus groups of gay Latinos.

“We want the men to feel that this campaign is for them, and that’s why we’re spending so much time with the focus groups.  We’re trying to do cultural tailoring of stories, so that they are appropriate for these men.”

And University of Washington researchers’ public health objectives do not end there. “Our goal is to eventually develop a national campaign,”  Dr. Solorio added.

Speaking on the potential effect that passage of the Senate immigration bill would have on opening up health care access to gay indocumentados, Dr. Solorio said that it would eliminate “a most important barrier,” but stressed that illegal aliens residing in the U.S. already have ready access to HIV treatment, thanks to taxpayer funding.

“And I have to say, you know, in the States, Latinos – even if they’re undocumented – they’re still able to access treatment if they test positive, but a lot of times, these young men don’t know that.”

“In Seattle, we do have some HIV testing centers like Gay City (funded in part by Public Health [of Seattle and King County]) that provide free HIV testing; however, what the young Latino MSM [males who have sex with other males] tell my research group is sometimes it take a couple of weeks to get an appointment. Often, by that time the young man had changed their mind about testing. This time delay in testing is an important barrier.”

According to its 2010 annual report, Gay City received 66 percent of its $873,661 budget from public financing.

CNSNews.com asked Dr. Solorio if it was in the interest of the U.S. taxpayer to spend hundreds of thousands on the ad campaign.

“Oh, I think, HIV is a preventable disease, and that’s compassionate about preventing HIV as a public health professional… I mean, there are tremendous public health benefits from people knowing their status,” she replied.  “We know it’s cost-effective to basically test everybody in the United States, so that anybody can learn about their HIV status.”