National Latino AIDS Awareness Day: A growing concern for the community

Hispanics make up nearly 26 percent of Arizonans with HIV. (Photo by Lauren Michaels/Cronkite News)

The number of new HIV infection cases is growing in the Hispanic community at a rate three times higher than in whites and health experts and HIV/AID advocates are pushing for more testing to combat the virus.

Chief Executive of the Aunt Rita Foundation, Kit Kloeckl, has been an advocate for the past seven years. After being diagnosed with AIDS 10 years ago, he now lives to educate.

“Prevention is the cure,” Kloeckl said. “So I decided to dedicate my life preventing it in others. If it’s too late for me, it’s certainly not too late for anybody else.”

Thursday is National Latino AIDS Awareness Day and local activists are focusing on testing.

Dr. Thanes Vanig, a Phoenix internal medicine specialist at Spectrum Medical, said an early diagnosis in someone with HIV is critical.

“It’s very important for HIV patients to know their status and get tested and get on medications as soon as possible.” Vanig said.

Terros, a local clinic, offers free HIV testing for anyone 13 years or older. A Terros employee, Angel Gonzales, said the Hispanic community needs to confront HIV.

“The most important thing we can do for the community at large is educate our children,” Gonzales said, “and continue to put this in the forefront of our Hispanic population because we are more vulnerable.”

Two Walgreens locations are offering free HIV testing from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday. Those locations are: 19th Avenue and Bethany Home Road, and 35th Avenue and Southern.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re here legally, not legally, immigrant, where you’re from,” Gonzales said. “All you have to do is show up at our Walgreens and we will test you.”

Kloeckl added, “If we could test every Arizonan, get every HIV positive person in care and keep them in care, the chances that they transmit the disease to someone else drops by 96%.