LatinaLista — This past weekend at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released the much anticipated report, Estimation of HIV Incidence in the United States.
One group that was anxiously awaiting the release of this report was the Latino Commission on AIDS. Given the rising incidence of AIDS cases among Latinos, the group was hoping the CDC report would finally reveal what the true picture of AIDS is among Latinos.
But that's not to be the case.
Today in a press release, the president of the Latino Commission on AIDS, Dennis deLeon, blasted the CDC report for its failure to include Puerto Ricans in the AIDS incidence among Hispanics. With the omission of the Puerto Ricans, deLeon claims that the CDC report presents a gross undercount of how many Latinos actually are afflicted with HIV/AIDS.
Why this infuriates deLeon so much is because reports like the CDC that undercount AIDS among Latinos also effectively deprive funding and resources to the Hispanic community to battle the epidemic.
The medical community already knows that Puerto Ricans make up a good share of the cases of AIDS/HIV. The CDC, in a report in January 2008, included Puerto Ricans when calculating the number of new Hispanic HIV/AIDS diagnosis and found that Puerto Ricans accounted for 20% of the new cases, raising the total from 17.3% when Puerto Ricans were not counted to 22% when the numbers were revised.
When contacted by Latina Lista to answer the criticisms of the Latino Commission on AIDS, Dr. Irene Hall, chief of the HIV Incidence and Case Surveillance Branch of the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the CDC said:
Because Census data is collected differently in Puerto Rico compared to the rest of the U.S. (data is not collected by race in Puerto Rico), we do not have data on race/ethnicity which would allow us to calculate rates for this population.
Therefore, data from Puerto Rico could not be included in the current analysis of HIV incidence for the U.S., which calculates rates. While data for those infected with HIV while living in Puerto Rico are not included, data are included for those of Puerto Rican descent who are infected and living in the 50 states or Washington D.C.
Today, CDC is providing training to all areas who participated in HIV incidence surveillance to allow individual areas to calculate their own incidence estimates. CDC supports efforts by Puerto Rico to calculate their own incidence estimate, and will provide technical assistance to Puerto Rico on this as needed.
HIV continues to exact a devastating toll among Latinos across the US, and CDC is committed to working to reach those in need with prevention services and accurate information about the epidemic.
However, the CDC's response will do little to appease the outrage of representatives from the Latino Commission on AIDS.
"We call on everyone to mobilize, demand respect, and call for recognition from CDC of the health crisis that HIV/AIDS represents in our LatinoHispanic communities in the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands", stated Guillermo Chacon, vice president of the Latino Commission on AIDS. "We will not allow our experience of the epidemic to be invisible. Our health crisis is real. We want an accurate picture of the impact of HIV/AIDS now."