How common is HIV among Latinos?
The Latino community has been hit hard by the HIV epidemic. Latinos make up approximately 19% of the U.S. population, yet they accounted for 27% of all new HIV cases in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Men who have sex with men (MSM) accounted for 85% of the estimated HIV diagnoses among Latino men.

Does HIV affect Latinos differently?
Advances in HIV treatment have benefited people of all racial and ethnic groups. While AIDS deaths have declined overall, the decrease has been more dramatic among non-Hispanic whites than among people of color. While HIV progression does not differ and treatment is equally effective for Latinos, they are more likely to be uninsured and to receive less adequate health care than non-Hispanic whites.

The CDC estimates that five out of six Latinos living with HIV have been tested and are aware of their status. Unfortunately, compared with HIV-positive people overall, Latinos have a lower likelihood of receiving HIV care (61%), remaining in care (49%) and achieving viral suppression (53%). Latinos are also less likely to be taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV.

In addition, Latinos are also at a higher risk for other health problems, which can make managing HIV infection more difficult.

  • Heart health. Heart disease and stroke are among the leading causes of death among Latinos in the United States. Because antiretrovirals (ARVs), and HIV itself, can also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, monitoring heart health is an important part of an HIV-positive Latino’s health care.
  • Diabetes. Latinos are almost twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to develop this disease, where the body is unable to properly control the amount of sugar in the blood. Left untreated, diabetes can cause damage to the kidneys, eyes, heart and nerves. HIV-positive Latinos can address diabetes risk factors by exercising, eating healthy and keeping their weight down.
  • Liver disease. Latinos do not have higher rates of hepatitis B or C, but they are more prone to fatty liver disease, which can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Are there any other issues for Latinos living with HIV?
Unfortunately, many HIV-positive Latinos are uninsured or underinsured. Immigration status also plays a huge role in health coverage, as both documented and undocumented immigrants are often barred from receiving government benefits like Medicaid, and concern about immigration status may deter people from seeking medical care. Fortunately, government programs funded through the Ryan White CARE Act, such as the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), are available to people regardless of their immigration status. Also, hospitals are not allowed to turn anyone away who requires emergency care.

AIDS service organizations (ASOs) can help Latinos access the health care services they need. HIV-related stigma can often interfere with proper medical care. Know your rights if you are denied access to treatment and health care. Language is another barrier to necessary health care. Many HIV-positive Latinos do not speak English fluently. Some clinics and hospitals have Spanish-speaking staff—including doctors, nurses, social workers and translators—to help patients communicate. Don’t hesitate to ask for this kind of help.

Last Reviewed: September 7, 2021