Press Releases

1998 Releases

Latino Leaders Gather at Harvard to Catalyze National Response to AIDS Crisis Among Latinos

For immediate release: May 04, 1998 

Boston--New statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control show that the AIDS epidemic continues to have a disproportionate impact on Latino Americans. In response, the Harvard AIDS Institute hosted a one-day summit today to galvanize the nation's Latino leaders to address the epidemic in a coordinated campaign. In five years, the annual number of Latino AIDS cases will surpass the annual number of non-Latino white AIDS cases, according to a recent Harvard AIDS Institute projection. The Leading for Life/Unidos Para la Vida summit was held to catalyze leaders in academia, business, entertainment, law, the media, medicine, politics, religion, and sports to raise awareness nationally and to develop a national follow-up campaign. Leaders at the summit adopted a call for action outlining concrete action steps to address the epidemic among Latinos.

Among those attending the summit were actress Rosie Perez; Norma Lopez, vice president of the National Council of La Raza; Ingrid Duran, assistant director of policy development for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO); and Rosanna Rosado, editor-in-chief of El Diario-La Prensa. Dr. Helene D. Gayle, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention, presented the latest epidemiologic findings.

The leaders confronted an epidemic that is already severe. During the first decade of the epidemic, Latino Americans had the fastest growing rate of AIDS cases compared to other racial/ethnic groups. While Latinos represent 11 percent of the U.S. resident population, they account for nearly one-fifth of all AIDS cases reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1997. Nearly a quarter of all children diagnosed with AIDS were Latino as of last year. In 1996, the rate of HIV case diagnoses for Latino Americans was more than three times higher than that for non-Latino whites.

"The Unidos Para la Vida summit is an important step in addressing the AIDS crisis among Latinos," said Dr. Rafael Campo, a physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "We must stop this disease from ravaging Latino communities."

"I know that the tens of thousands of Latinos who have died because of AIDS would be proud of what we are doing here today," said Dennis deLeon, president of the Latino Commission on AIDS. "For the first time we have the beginnings of a national response to AIDS in the Latino community."

The Latino Commission on AIDS announced the formation of the National Coalition of Latinos Responding to HIV/AIDS. The National Coalition will speak out on issues affecting Latinos throughout the United States and educate leaders and governmental agencies on the needs of the Latino community. The National Coalition will be reaching out to all segments of the Latino community to create a national voice on one of the most critical health issues in our community. The Coalition will work to ensure that the needs of the Latino community are addressed by every level of government and by private and public funders.

The Harvard AIDS Institute cosponsored the summit along with the Latino Commission on AIDS, the American Red Cross Hispanic HIV/AIDS Education Program, the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Association, and the Mauricio Gastón Institute. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation--a non-profit, independent national health care philanthropy based in Menlo Park, California--provided primary funding for the campaign, as well as support and guidance. Epidemiologic assistance was provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Harvard AIDS Institute is a university-wide organization that conducts and catalyzes research to end the worldwide AIDS epidemic.

For further information, please contact:

Robin Herman
Office of Communications
Harvard School of Public Health
677 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Phone: 617-432-4752