It’s that time of year again where Commission staff make the trek from NYC to Albany for our annual conference, Reunion Latina. If you ask someone who has attended over the years what they look forward to there, you might hear them describe “Trainings, seeing old friends, workshops, meeting new friends, legislative briefs, and …dancing!” This long-standing tradition has morphed over time as communities, policies and circumstances around disease have shifted. Addressing health disparities and the social factors that keep these disparities alive is paramount to making a dent in the HIV epidemic. While we have known this for years, Reunion Latina is giving social determinants the spotlight.
Why are we seeing over a third of Latinos who are diagnosed with HIV progress to AIDS within a year? Folks are testing late in the disease. Years after initially contracting the virus. Why are people getting the HIV test late in the disease?
Instinctively many people would answer this question by looking at the person getting tested. Why didn’t you go to the doctor when you felt sick? Don’t you care about your health? Your families’ health? This is instinct a lot of times. We see getting a test as a behavior, and we all have control over our behaviors, right? Yes, but there’s more than that. And that is what we are focusing on when we talk about social determinants of health.
Did you know that as an ethnic group Latinos are also the least likely to have health insurance? One out of three Latinos across the nation does not have insurance.
No insurance you say? Well can’t someone just pay for the test? In New York State, 24% of Latinos are living below the poverty line – which for an individual means making less than $11,670 per year. In New York. Where the average rent in NYC is over $3,000 per month.
I think you are getting the point. Income, education, employment, housing, neighborhood, school system, culture, stigma – all these things shape the health-related decisions we make. All these things mentioned above are barriers.
But we can’t stop there. What we are doing in Albany right now is two-fold. We are not only trying to break down the barriers (or find some way around them) but also looking at what supports us in our lives so we can make healthy choices. What parts of our neighborhood make our lives better? Friends? A long walk to the train that keeps us a little more active?
Think about it for a moment and let us know. What keeps you from making “healthy choices”? What in your life supports you?