AIDS Activists: 'Fear of Trump Policies' May Cause HIV Rates to Rise Among Latinos

By Michael W. Chapman | October 16, 2018 | 5:33pm EDT
(Getty Images)

An HIV/AIDS group, whose board of advisers includes doctors from some of the most prestigious medical institutions in the country, says that "fear of Trump policies" may be a factor in the rising rate of HIV in Latino homosexual men. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS; 68% of new HIV infections in the United States occur in homosexual and bisexual men. 

"The Body, The Complete HIV/AIDS Resource" is a service of Remedy Health Media in New York City, and it states that part of its mission is to "demystify HIV/AIDS and its treatment" and "use the Web to lower barriers between patients and clinicians."

On Oct. 15, 2018, The Body published an article with the headline, "Fear of Trump May Drive Rising HIV Rates in Latinx Gay Men."  Latinx is the "gender-neutral" term for Latino. 

(Getty Images North America.) 

The article talks about a 45-year-old gay man, "Daniel," who fled socialist Venezuela to live in Miami and get HIV treatment under the Ryan White CARE Act/AIDS Drug Assistance Program. The article also discusses how legal and illegal Latino immigrants deal with the pressures of the Trump administration's immigration policies and how those policies apparently fuel "extreme stress and anxiety."

"Daniel is now among countless HIV-positive Latinx immigrant men who have sex with men (MSM) living in the U.S., some documented, some not," reads the article.  "They're part of a larger population of Latinx MSM, among whom the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported recently that HIV rates were rising, even as they were dropping slightly among white MSM and remaining stable (although disproportionately high) among black MSM."

"But as the Trump administration cracks down on immigrants, advocates say that such a climate makes reversing HIV rates in Latinx gay men all the harder," the article states. 

"That is not to say that Latinx MSM's HIV rates are rising because of immigrants, according to Oscar Lopez of Valley AIDS Council, in the Texas border town of Brownsville, which serves about 2,000 HIV-positive clients," according to The Body.  

"'These rates have been climbing for multiple years,' he says," in the story. "'But I think fears around deportation and racism toward immigrants, feeling unsafe, and the stress of having to provide for your family all contribute toward poor mental health and the potential to abuse substances and expose yourself to HIV.'"

(Getty Images North America.) 

"'We're starting to see this definite pattern' around Latinx MSM immigrants, he says," in the article. 

"In the Trump era, amid a string of hostile policies toward immigrants, MSM are certainly not the only Latinx people or immigrants experiencing extreme stress and anxiety," claims the report. 

A "new stressor," according to the story is a proposed Trump administration rule "that would make it harder for documented immigrants to get green cards if they receive public assistance, including Medicaid, food stamps, and housing subsidies."

The rule, if implemented, "would certainly include documented Latinx MSM who rely on these programs for themselves or their family members," reads the article. 

Further, Luis Scaccabarrozzi, vice president of the Latino Commission on AIDS (LCOA), is quoted: "In the first months of the Trump administration, he says, 'We saw a rise in calls from people with HIV in [immigration] detention centers, mostly in California and Texas, who said they weren't getting their HIV meds. They knew they were being deported.' Unlike in the Obama administration, he says, 'ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] had been waiting for them as they exited their political asylum hearings.'"

The article also quotes Stephen Fallon, executive director of Latinos Salud: "'First, we have guys coming here HIV-negative from homophobic countries who've lived closeted most of their lives. It's exhilarating to be out and gay here, but sometimes they're exploited in the sex-for-security trade and economic insecurity leads them to compromising decisions' resulting in HIV acquisition."

President Donald Trump. (Getty Images.) 

Among The Body's board of advisers, who "serve in their individual capacaties," are Victoria A. Cargill, M.D., M.S.C.E., Washington, D.C., director of Clinical Studies and Minority Research, National Institutes of Health Office of AIDS Research; Thomas Coates, M.D., Los Angeles, professor of medicine, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine;  Joel Gallant, M.D., Baltimore, associate professor of medicine and epidemiology, Division of Infectious Diseases, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine;  Martha Kirkpatrick, M.D., Los Angeles, past vice president, American Psychiatric Association; and Kenneth H. Mayer, M.D., Providence, R.I., director, Brown University AIDS Program. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "Anal sex is the highest-risk sexual behavior for HIV transmission.... The vast majority of men who get HIV get it through anal sex."

Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop advised that "the human rectum was just not designed" for sexual intercourse and that if one is going to engage in sex, then it should be with "the one right person ... what we call monogamy."

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