Group Seeks Solutions To HIV Explosion In Latino Community – QNS.com

Group Seeks Solutions To HIV Explosion In Latino Community

The street was the only place he could make friends, so he didnt have any.
A recent arrival to Queens and working to support his family instead of attending school, the 19-year-old Colombian immigrant (who asked that his name not be used) found few options for a social life that didnt involve drugs and drinking, until he found out about the Hispanic AIDS Forum (HAF).
"I like it because theres people my age," said the youth, "and Ive learned a lot of things that I didnt know about in my country."
The HAF Latino Youth in Action Program is a new initiative seeking ways to tackle one of the biggest problems in the Latino immigrant community: AIDS.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), New York State has the most cases of Latinos with HIV/AIDS in the country, and in New York Citywhere they are concentratedLatino youth comprise 40 percent of all youth living with HIV/AIDS although they only make up 14 percent of the total youth population.
HAFs strategy for combating these statistics is arming a group of young people with information and teaching them how to educate their friends and community. Francisco Roque, the programs coordinator, says the main reason for the rapid rise of HIV/AIDS in the Latino community is ignorance.
"Primarily theres a lack of knowledgetheyre not getting it in the schools, theyre not getting it from parents," said Roque.
Fear is the other major factor accelerating the diseases spread. Undocumented immigrants are often afraid to get tested because they usually dont have health benefits and assume theres nothing they can do if they get infected.
"Being undocumented, theres a belief that you cant access services," said Roque. "But in reality, there are a lot of services they can access."
HAF can help immigrants, both documented and undocumented, navigate the various programs that help people living with HIV/AIDS, but few know about their services.
Thats where the HAF youth program comes in. It started with a group of 17 young people who, after first learning about HIV/AIDS transmission and prevention, decided to create a magazine to reach the Queens Latino community with what theyve learned. HAF hopes to keep up their momentum after the first group ends by recruiting a new group of at least 20 Latino youths, ages 15-24, to start in October.
For more information about HAF, located at 62-07 Woodside Ave., contact Francisco Roque at (718) 803-2766.
E-mail this reporter at sarah@queenscourier.com.

More from Around New York