SAN ANTONIO — This week the country recognized National LatinX Aids Awareness Day, a day to raise awareness about how HIV and AIDS impact the entire Latino community.
"I found out that I was HIV last August 19, 2018," said Steven Flores. Jamie Zapata who is also living with HIV told us, "I was diagnosed in 2017 and I was immediately tested and got into treatment right away."
Each dealt with their HIV diagnosis in their own way. Flores told us, "It was quite alarming because I was one of those guys who was invincible and things like that just don't happen to me." Zapata added, "I'm not the type to dwell on what-ifs. I just know that if this is what the situation is and that I need to face it I need to deal with it accept it and move on."
Both are now on treatment and are undetectable, stressing U equals U, Undetectable equals untransmittable. An HIV positive diagnosis is no longer a death sentence. Regina Maspero from the Bexar County Health Collaborative said, "You could live a lifetime with this diagnosis which is chronic, but you can be treated in many ways, and you can be treated for low or no cost depending on where you fall."
Over 250,000 Latinos are living with HIV in the U.S. That is about 1/5 of the total number of those living with HIV in the country. For every 100 Latinos living with HIV, half were virally suppressed. But, one in every six Latinos living with HIV are unaware they are carrying the virus. Maspera added, "For many people who are not active in the HIV Aids Awareness community, and they do not really put emphasis on the reality that we are still in the middle of an epidemic. We are very much fighting a disease that at this point is preventable but it's also treatable."
Both Flores and Zapata say the conversation is necessary to stop the spread of the virus and get rid of the stigma. Zapata said, "As a Mexican American transgendered woman who is living with HIV I feel it is important for people to know that we are disproportionately affected by HIV." Flores added, "The more we talk about HIV the less stigma there is around it. it is the smartest thing to get tested why did you are negative or positive. "
A luncheon and presentation next Tuesday are open to the public to help raise awareness about the fight against the spread of HIV. Zapata said, "The only way we are going to stop the virus is if we get everyone on treatment." Flores added, "If you don't have support there is major support out there in the community for you."