How Is a Telenovela Getting Latinos to Talk Openly and Honestly About Sex?

Our Affiliate AltaMed Health Services talks about their innovative new public education web series

 By David Castillo, Senior Digital Content Manager, NCLR

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Talking about sex and sexuality is not always easy to do, especially if you belong to a community that too often avoids having such conversations at all. But we have to talk about it if we are going to tackle the health problems that can stem from unsafe sexual behavior and a general lack of information. That is exactly what the makers of the new web series Sin Vergüenza have attempted to do. Sin Vergüenza a telenovela centered on a family, comprising Adriana, the wife and mother, Cesar, the husband and father, Esther, the abuela, Enrique, the son, and Christina, the daughter. And they all happen to be dealing with the pitfalls of sex, relationships, and sexually transmitted diseases.

Not long ago, our California-based Affiliate, AltaMed Health Services, noticed an unsettling trend among their patients: a lack of information about sex and STDs, and a penchant for dodging conversations about them. With Sin Vergüenza, AltaMed set out to educate the Latino community about the role of HIV/AIDS and STDs in our community. But this would not be just any educational public service campaign. Those are plentiful, and indeed AltaMed has even created some of their own. No, the challenge for the AltaMed team was to create a series that would be educational and at the same time highly engaging and entertaining.

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Fulfilling the Promise of the Affordable Care Act for the Latino LGBT Community

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Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law, nearly 18 million Americans, including four million Latinos, have gained access to health care. This open enrollment period alone has seen well over two million signups, including more than 700,000 new consumers in the federal health insurance marketplace. While we have made a lot of progress, we must continue to reach out to all groups, especially within the Latino community, where one in five remains uninsured.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Latino population has long faced barriers preventing them from obtaining quality health care. The ACA works to address these disparities, providing important protections and benefits to ensure everyone in the LGBT community can access the care they need.

For many in LGBT community, living with HIV, diabetes, cancer, or other chronic conditions, presented a barrier to obtaining health services. A preexisting condition once meant someone could be legally barred from getting insurance, but thanks to the ACA, people with preexisting conditions can no longer be denied coverage.

To ensure everyone has the right to health care, recent civil rights protections in the ACA expressly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, race, class, age, disability, and now sexual orientation. The provision, known as Section 1557, applies nondiscrimination protections to all health programs that receive funding from the federal government. Plans sold through the federal health insurance marketplace are covered under this law, as are hospitals, clinics, and other health care providers. Federal programs like Medicaid and Medicare are all covered under this provision as well.

The ACA has helped Latino LGBT individuals gain access to the health care they deserve. NCLR remains committed to communicating what the ACA means for LGBT people and ensuring the promise and benefits of the ACA reach our entire community!

It is important to make sure you and your loved ones stay healthy in 2016. Open enrollment is in full swing and the deadline to get covered is January 31, 2016. To find a health plan that best fits your needs, head to healthcare.gov or CuidadoDeSalud.gov and get covered!

The Power of National Latino AIDS Awareness Day

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 3.24.52 PMThere are currently more than one million people in the United States living with HIV/AIDS. The disease disproportionately affects Latinos, who account for more than one-fifth of infections while only representing about 17% of the population. Latinos are more than three times more likely to become infected than their White counterparts. That disparity becomes even more severe for Latino men, who make up about 85% of new HIV diagnoses within the Latino community.

National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) was started in 2003 to shed light on the growing epidemic of HIV/AIDS within the Latino community. Falling on the final day of Hispanic Heritage Month, it tempers the celebration of our shared heritage with a call to action to help those in our community who suffer the hardships of HIV/AIDS on a daily basis.  This year’s theme is “You & I Will Defeat AIDS” (Tú y yo vamos a derrotar al SIDA).

The factors contributing to the impact of HIV/AIDS on the Latino community go beyond mere health care. Higher poverty rates among Latinos mean they are less able to access adequate, routine, and timely care and treatment. Immigration issues, currently being loudly debated in our national arena, can also contribute to fears about sharing personal information.

An important resource in the fight against HIV/AIDS is the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, established in 1990 by the HIV/AIDS Bureau—part of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration—to provide treatment and services for people living with HIV/AIDS but who lack resources to obtain the care they require. The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program provides critical HIV care, support, and medications to over half a million people each year. The program also supports the Affordable Care Enrollment Technical Assistance Center, which trains health departments and HIV/AIDS service providers to enroll diverse people living with HIV in Affordable Care Act (ACA) health coverage. The program has materials available for consumers, providers, and enrollment assisters, including Making the Most of Your Coverage, a guide that provides information on how newly insured consumers can use their health insurance. NCLR is a partner in this effort led by JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc., as we work to reduce the number of uninsured people in the Latino community.

With the third ACA open enrollment period beginning on November 1, it is extremely important for more Latinos to get the correct information regarding coverage and HIV treatment. To find the right health insurance plan for you, visit healthcare.gov or cuidadodesalud.gov, or call toll-free at 1 (800) 318-2596. The open enrollment period allows registration in a health plan through January 31, 2016. One-on-one enrollment assistance can help people choose the best, most affordable plan, and is available at localhelp.healthcare.gov and ayudalocal.cuidadodesalud.gov/es.

Since its establishment, NLAAD has succeeded in raising awareness both in the Latino community and the country as a whole. Testing kits have become more widely available across the United States as a result of NLAAD and partner organizations’ efforts to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS. New infections among Latinos are decreasing as a result of the comprehensive efforts underway across the country; however, the infection rate continues to rise among Latino men who have sex with men. There is still much to be done before HIV/AIDS can go the way of polio and smallpox.

For information on HIV/AIDS prevention, testing, and treatment, or to find out how you can get involved in the fight against this disease, please visit nlaad.org. You can sign up for events and volunteer opportunities to help our community reduce the threat of infection. NCLR is proud to assist in the struggle against HIV/AIDS and we will continue to strive and work for the health of Latinos across the country.

Have a Pre-existing Condition? Don’t Let that Stop You; Sign Up for Health Care Today!

HIVEnrollee_blog2015The end of open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is less than two weeks away. Latinos have a lot to gain from enrollment, particularly those with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, cancer, and HIV.

Melissa Torres, a program coordinator at NCLR Affiliate Latino Community Services (LCS) in Hartford, Conn., works to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Latino community and other at-risk populations. They also strive to improve the health and quality of life of people living with HIV/AIDS. In addition to her work on two programs at LCS that target young Latino and Black men who have sex with men, Melissa is also an in-person assister helping people enroll in ACA health coverage.

“I think it’s important for those who have HIV or other chronic illnesses to… sign up for coverage because unlike before, you can still get coverage [even if you have] a pre-existing condition,” said Torres.

Despite these advantages, Torres has found that clients still have concerns about enrolling in health insurance.

“It’s a tough situation to be in when you have to think about whether or not you can afford health care because you are already living paycheck to paycheck as it is,” said Torres. “If you don’t get coverage, you have to pay a penalty. For some, it’s a lose/lose situation.”

300_aca_sharegraphic-(3)Josefina*, an LCS client who is HIV positive, came to the United States nearly five years ago from Panama. Case managers at LCS recently helped her enroll in a qualified health plan. While some of the questions took longer to answer and the Internet was a bit slow, Josefina is happy to have enrolled in insurance under the Affordable Care Act. She says she feels more confident now that she has health insurance; however, she does need more information around her co-pays and deductibles.

If you are also confused about health insurance terms, help is available in English and Spanish. If you are helping people with HIV enroll in health insurance, there are resources to make the process easier.

The deadline to enroll in health insurance for 2015 through the Affordable Care Act is February 15. If you are in the Hartford area, Latino Community Services can help. LCS has two staff members at the agency who are trained in-person assisters, so it has become very easy and convenient to help people enroll. The agency is open every Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for enrollment assistance.

*Name changed to protect anonymity

What Latinas Need to Know About Cervical Cancer

By Marcela Vargas, Project Coordinator, Institute for Hispanic Health, NCLR

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January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. It is particularly important to us here at NCLR because of the impact it has on the Latina community. In 2011, Latina women had the highest rate of cervical cancer out of all racial and ethnic groups. In the same year, Latinas had the second-highest death rate due to cervical cancer out of the same groups. The sad reality about these rates is that they could very easily decrease if we took more time to worry about preventive health. With that in mind, here are three things you should know about cervical cancer:

  1. All women can get cervical cancer. While all women are at risk for cervical cancer, certain factors can increase the chances of getting the disease. Having HIV or a condition that weakens the immune system puts you at higher risk for getting cervical cancer. In addition, smoking or having used birth control pills for at least five years also increase the risk. Lastly, women who have given birth to three or more children are more likely to develop cervical cancer.
  2. Cervical cancer does not always cause symptoms. Many times, we do not think to go to the doctor until we are not feeling well. In the case of cervical cancer, we cannot take this risk. It often does not cause any symptoms. In the rare cases that it does, symptoms do not occur until the disease is in its advanced stages.
  3. There are ways to prevent cervical cancer. There are several ways to protect yourself. Regular Pap tests help catch cervical cancer when treatment is still simple. It is also important to follow up with your health care provider if your Pap test results come back abnormal. Using condoms during sexual activity and not smoking will also help protect you from cervical cancer.

The good news about all of this is that there are resources for women to get themselves screened. In 2015, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, Pap tests are covered by insurance companies at no cost to you. If you still do not have insurance, the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program provides access to cervical cancer screening services.