HIV in the Latino Community: Commercial Addresses This Reality for the First Time, and in Spanish

HIV in the Latino Community BELatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of ViiV Healthcare

The Latinx community is disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. In fact, a study led by the CDC in 2018 found that 27 percent of the cases belonged to those in the Latinx/Hispanic community. 

A lot has changed since the first case in 1983. 

It’s been over 40 years that this condition has remained an epidemic, but time has played in its favor. There is more information than ever, better treatment, easier access to care, and hope for those living with HIV.

I know for a fact that my cousin (yet I called him tío) would’ve loved to reap the benefits of the new advancements — the 90s were hard on anyone with HIV, and fate didn’t fare well on him. But being professionally trained in the medical field, I would almost bet he’d be delighted to know that so many are now able to live long lives thanks to science and with the full support of their families. Thankfully, he counted on some of that support. Sadly, that hasn’t been the case for many in the Latinx community.

The case of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Latino community 

See, having the support of your family, your Latinx family, can be a challenge in itself. 

Years ago, many families, including Latinx families, would shun their family members because of the disinformation or lack of access to information that existed. If any type of information were circulating, it wouldn’t be in Spanish. 

There were just so many hoops to jump, which ultimately left so many people alone, homeless, and without much hope. 

Those same people couldn’t even have fathomed seeing a commercial on TV about life with HIV (in Spanish, no less!) to ever air. But it did, and Luciano, a 31-year-old Argentine man, living in New York, was the face of it. This was monumental, considering this is the first-ever television commercial for HIV treatment in Spanish. 

He has been living with HIV since 2010. However, the moment he was diagnosed was short of impersonal. 

On a trip to New York that year, he fell ill. A few days later, an interpreter gave him his diagnosis over the phone since his doctor at that moment did not speak a lick of Spanish. Many years have passed since that day, and Luciano is as healthy as ever. Yet, he does not forget that day and how it outlined the importance of having access to medical information in people’s native language. 

For this reason, he collaborated with ViiV Healthcare as a patient ambassador to create this historic commercial while telling his story.

BELatina News had the pleasure of speaking with Luciano. 

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. 

On what he believes is the biggest challenge

I believe the stigma is the biggest barrier. It’s definitely a big monster that we need to get together to talk about and dismantle.

On the importance of being part of the first-ever commercial about HIV in Spanish

After 40 years of the HIV epidemic, it was about time to bring information about it, especially in the Hispanic/Latinx community. I also think it’s finally okay to educate our community and provide the proper information in Spanish, but it’s important to make sure that it is understandable for our people; sharing the information in a simple message helps a lot. 

On why it’s vital to educate the Latinx community

I believe that information and education are power. Bringing this to the community is also the best way to empower them. Let’s remember that sharing your story can help other people who are facing the same issue get better because it can empower them about their health. 

On the reason behind his advocacy for HIV

I always say that I do not have superpowers and I’m not a superhero. But when I received my HIV diagnosis, I decided to work on it and get better. Once I was in treatment and had everything that I needed, I  focused on sharing that information with other peers and other people who were going through the same issues. I remember it being very hard for me at that time, but I immediately understood that nobody should ever go through this alone.

On what he hopes the Latinx community gets from the commercial and all the new information out there

The narrative is what needs to change. Our community needs to understand (and are starting to understand) that someone living with HIV is a regular person who works, shares with their family, and more. 

On his hopes that the Latinx community understands their power

Forty years after the HIV epidemic started, I think it was about time we started to share our stories with the Hispanic/Latinx community. But other issues affect our community that we also need to focus on —  immigration policy, cancer, and other health issues as well. And, I think we are stronger if we all get together. 

It’s steps like these that will help our community understand people, including loved ones, living with HIV rather than vilifying them like before. There was never a need for that, and it’s great to see that our community is now moving away from that type of backward thinking.