Snohomish County targets Hispanic population in HIV prevention efforts

SEATTLE -- Snohomish County hopes the local Hispanic community will feel more comfortable being tested for HIV at a community health event designed specifically for their culture.

October is Latino AIDS Awareness Month, a national campaign aimed at engaging the Hispanic community in promoting HIV awareness through testing, prevention and education.

In Washington state, 12 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS are Hispanic, but Latinos only compromise 9.4 percent of the total population. The rates of new infections among Hispanic men were more than double that of white men. The rate of HIV infection among Latino women was nearly four times that of white women.

To address this disparity, the Snohomish Health District will be offering free HIV testing at community SeaMar clinics.

According to the CDC, the impact of HIV on Hispanic people is not directly related to race or ethnicity, but rather to challenges faced by some communities, including less awareness of HIV status, poverty, access to care, stigma, migration and homophobia.

David Bayless, disease intervention specialist at the Snohomish Health District, said while men who have sex with men have the highest prevalence of HIV, it is important to offer testing and other support services to others outside of the gay community.

"Casting a wider net is important for the people who would never identify themselves as gay but are doing activities that put them at risk for HIV," Bayles said. "Maybe they would come to a Latino health event rather than a gay health event."

Bayless also said Hispanic people typically go to the doctor less frequently than white people, so they are often diagnosed with HIV when the infection is more advanced and may have already developed into AIDS.

"We know that Latinos aren't accessing healthcare services at the rate that they should, due to language and cultural barriers," Bayles said. "We are trying to establish a pattern of preventative healthcare."

Free HIV testing will be offered at the following dates and locations. Testing is open to anyone who is at-risk for contracting the infection, not just Hispanic people:

  • Tuesday, Oct. 22, from 4 - 6 p.m. at Everett Sea Mar Behavioral Clinic, 5007 Claremont Way

  • Tuesday, Oct. 22, from 1 - 5 p.m. at Monroe Sea Mar Behavioral Clinic, 14090 Fryeland Blvd. SE, Ste. #347

  • Wednesday, Oct. 23, from 4 - 5 p.m. at Everett Sea Mar Behavioral Clinic, 5007 Claremont Way

  • Wednesday, Oct. 23 from 9-11 a.m. at Everett Sea Mar Behavioral Clinic, 5007 Claremont Way

  • Thursday, Oct. 24, from 4 - 8 p.m. at Everett Sea Mar Medical Clinic, 1920 100th Street SE, Bldng. B

  • Friday, Oct. 25, from 12 - 4 p.m. at Monroe Sea Mar Medical Clinic, 17707 West Main Street

  • Thursday, Oct. 31, from 1 - 4 p.m. at Marysville Sea Mar Medical Clinic, 9710 State Avenue

Snohomish Health District offers free and confidential HIV testing and counseling for high-risk individuals year-round, in its Everett clinic location, with test results in 30 minutes. Individuals with risk can also be tested for hepatitis A,B, C, and syphilis. For more information call (425) 339-5298.

Snohomish County has the third highest rates of HIV in the state behind King and Pierce counties.

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