HIV-prevention funding for Latinos subject of meeting

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A San Francisco nonprofit is being joined today by local elected officials, including Mayor Gavin Newsom and state Sen. Mark Leno, to raise awareness about the lack of HIV prevention funding being awarded to Latino-oriented organizations. 

At a press conference and town hall meeting slated for 6 p.m. in San Francisco, AGUILAS plans to address how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's allocation of funds could negatively affect the gay and
bisexual Latino community.

Leno is a supporter of AGUILAS, an organization that aims to address the needs of the gay Latino population, including HIV awareness and prevention.

“We know that the rate of new HIV infections in Latino men is more than double that of white men,” Leno said. “This is a serious health issue.”

Since $52 million designated for HIV/AIDS education and early intervention was cut from the state budget, organizations like AGUILAS are that much more important, Leno said.

The goal of tonight's gathering is to promote awareness of the issue and launch a letter writing and social networking campaign appealing to President Barack Obama and other officials to put pressure on the CDC to provide funds for agencies that serve the Latino gay and bisexual community.

According to AGUILAS, in August, the CDC awarded $42 million to be allocated to 133 community organizations in the United States from 2010 to 2015.

Only one Latino program west of the Mississippi will receive funds from the CDC through 2015, AGUILAS executive director Dr. Eduardo Morales said in a statement.

AGUILAS reported that U.S. Census data from 2008 showed that more than 65 percent of Latinos live west of the Mississippi.

Despite HIV being considered a “serious threat” to the Latino community – according to the CDC – Morales fears that the community, especially men who have sex with men, will be unattended.

“The outcome of funding does not match the priorities,” Morales said.

Morales said he contacted the CDC about the discrepancy, and the agency said it needed more time to respond.

Morales, a professor at Alliant International University who co-founded AGUILAS in 1994, said funds would be used to carry out targeted, sustained, intense prevention programs including workshops, discussion groups and individual counseling.

“In order to do that, you need the funding,” Morales said.

Without such programs, people are more likely to go back to bad habits, Morales said.

According to the CDC website, Oct. 15 is National Latino AIDS Awareness Day.

State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, city supervisors David Campos and Bevan Dufty, and Herb K. Schultz of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are scheduled to speak along with Newsom and Leno.

The press conference and town hall meeting will take place tonight at 6 p.m. at the San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Community Center, 1800 Market St., 4th floor, San Francisco. Members of the media and public are invited to attend.
   

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