News And Politics

South Central has highest rate of HIV infection in the county, says area doctor

Oct. 15, 2012, 1:16 p.m.

Today is National Latino AIDS Awareness Day and officials encourage everyone to get tested.(Flickr via hunter.gatherer)

Monday is National Latino AIDS Awareness Day and in an area such as South Los Angeles that has a largely Latino population, it's another opportunity to remind people to get tested. Felix Aguilar, the chief medical officer at the South Central Family Health Center, says South Central has the highest rate of HIV infection in L.A. County -- so encouraging testing is something they do all year.

“We try to de-stigmatize HIV and HIV testing,” said Aguilar, adding that the clinic tries to do this by incorporating the test into the standard list of STD testing -- not distinguishing it. He said they try to educate people that it's not a disease only associated with a specific kind of person or behavior, "the risks are a lot more general than that." HIV can be passed on through unprotected sex, breast milk, intravenous drugs or any activity where blood or certain fluids are transferred between two people.

According to the ,Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the HIV infection rate among Latinos is nearly three times as high as that of whites and according to 2009 statistics, Latinos represented approximately 16 percent of the U.S. population but accounted for 20 percent of new HIV infections. The racial/ethnic group most effected by HIV is African Americans, with this demographic making up 14 percent of the U.S. population but accounting for 44 percent of new HIV infections in 2009.

These numbers aren't related to race or ethnicity, says the CDC, but rather to factors including poverty, stigma, access to care or a lower awareness of HIV status.

A quarter of people who have HIV don't know they have it, said Aguilar, spurring health officials including those at the South L.A. clinic to encourage every adult -- no matter what your race or lifestyle -- to get tested at least once.

The CDC reports that at some point in life, 1 in 36 Latino men will be diagnosed with HIV as will 1 in 106 Latina women. Although the infection rate in women is lower, officials encourage all pregnant women to get tested for HIV and if they are infected, work with their doctors to make sure the disease does not spread to their child. It is possible for a mother to have HIV and not pass it on to her baby.

In an effort to help reduce the number of HIV cases in the country, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first over-the-counter HIV test this summer, giving people the power to test themselves at home for the disease. The test, OraQuick, is about $40 and available for purchase to anyone 17 or older. It can be bought online or in drugstores such as Walgreens, and only requires users to swab their gums, place the stick in a solution and wait 20 to 40 minutes for results.

Even if you do choose to use the at-home method, officials encourage follow-up testing at a clinic and there are many in South L.A. that offer HIV testing. In addition to the South Central Family Health Center's clinic at 4425 S. Central Avenue, here's a CDC recommended list of nearby locations for testing:

St Johns Well Child & Family Center
Manual Arts High School Clinic
4131 S Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, California 90037

St Johns Well Child and Family Center
Dr Louis C Frayser Clinic (details)
5701 S Hoover St
Los Angeles, California 90037

St Johns Well Child and Family Center
S Mark Taper Foundation Chronic Disease and Environmental Health Center
808 W 58th St
Los Angeles, California 90037

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