The past three years have seen tremendous breakthroughs in HIV prevention research. Since 2009, we have seen the first vaccine to show effectiveness, a microbicide that was found to be modestly efficacious and two studies demonstrating that an HIV medication could be used as a pre-exposure prophylaxis or could reduce new infections by treating those with HIV earlier. These advances have led many to herald a new era in our 30-year campaign to end the epidemic.
But despite these milestones, the populations that are most highly affected by HIV are not equitably represented in biomedical research trials. Consider the impact of HIV on the Latino community. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Latinos accounted for 20 percent of new HIV infections in 2009.
- While Latina women accounted for 21 percent of new infections among Latinos in 2009, their rate of HIV infection was more than four times that of white women.
- Latino men who have sex with men accounted for 81 percent of new HIV infections among all Latino men in 2009 and 20 percent among all men who have sex with men.
The future success of HIV prevention research studies depends on the understanding, trust, support and participation of all communities. Today, National Latino AIDS Awareness Day, highlights the need to raise awareness among Latinos and other underrepresented populations about the critical role they play in research to find an HIV vaccine and develop other biomedical prevention interventions.
Through the Be the Generation Bridge project, FHI 360 and the Legacy Project of the U.S. Office of HIV/AIDS Network Coordination are working to build support for biomedical HIV prevention research among underrepresented communities. Funded by U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Be the Generation Bridge supports national and local organizations that reach communities that are disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS. These organizations promote dialogue on issues related to biomedical prevention research between their communities and NIAID-funded trial networks (HIV Vaccine Trials Network, HIV Prevention Trials Network and the Microbicide Trials Network).
Currently, Be the Generation Bridge fosters relationships with the Latino community through our partners Bienestar Human Services in Los Angeles, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center-Vida/SIDA in Chicago, the Latino Health Initiative in Boston, as well as national organizations ASPIRA Associates and the Latino Commission on AIDS. Our work includes creating videos, in Spanish and English, of people sharing their experiences with biomedical HIV prevention research and their personal efforts to end AIDS.
Building a strong partnership with Latino communities is essential if we are to bring an end to AIDS in the United States. Because of the work of our partners, we observe National Latino AIDS Awareness Day with the hope of ending AIDS with the participation and commitment of all communities. Sí se puede. Yes, it can be done!