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!

Community Health Centers: Serving Our Nation’s Most Vulnerable for 50 Years

Promotores_CHWs_blogpostThis week we join in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Community Health Center. For 50 years, community health centers have been fulfilling a critical role in providing quality and accessible health care to millions of Americans, especially some of the nation’s most vulnerable. NCLR is proud to count several community health centers among our Affiliate Network in states across the country with a shared goal of increasing the number of people with quality, affordable, and accessible care.

For the past 50 years, the HRSA Community Health Center program has been providing health services to medically underserved communities across the country. Community health centers support nearly 1,300 health centers in the United States and other U.S. territories. As a result, health centers have created a network of one of the largest systems of primary and preventive care in the country.

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Community health centers are particularly important to the uninsured because they are not permitted to deny access based on immigration status, lack of insurance, or ability to pay. In many cases, patients can receive comprehensive primary care, including preventive services, prenatal care, and even counseling services. Health centers’ diverse patient mix also reflects their unique role in providing access to those who might otherwise remain disconnected from health coverage. For example, last year, Latinos accounted for more than one out of three patients served at these health centers, numbering 7.7 million patients, an increase of over two million from 2008. In 2010, health centers provided health care to nearly one million migrant and seasonal workers, a segment of the population that traditionally has had low incomes and poor access to health care. Furthermore, nearly one-quarter (24.6 percent) of all health center patients are served in a language other than English, a major barrier to regular care.

The Affordable Care Act has made critical investments to further increase the ability and capacity for community health centers to continue playing a key role in quality, accessible, and affordable care delivery. For example, the number of these centers has grown along with the types of services they can provide. Over the past four years, the number of health centers has grown by over 500, more than 150 HIV/AIDS treatment and care grants have been distributed, and more than 1,200 centers throughout the nation now do outreach and enrollment activities.

The expanding role of community health centers is critical to providing health and stability to the Latino community, as well as many minority and at-risk populations. We look forward to the HRSA Community Health Center program having a positive impact on the lives of Latino families for another 50 years.

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

Enhancing Health Care Protections for LGBT Individuals

By Matthew Heinz, MD, Director of Provider & LGBT Outreach, and Juliet K. Choi, JD, Chief of Staff & Senior Advisor, Office for Civil Rights

(This was originally posted to the HHS Blog.) 

Photo: JBrazito

Photo: JBrazito

Throughout the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), we operate on the fundamental belief that every American deserves equal opportunity, equal protection, and equal rights under the law. When we are sick or injured, we depend on health care professionals to treat us with competence, compassion, and the understanding that we are protected against mistreatment.

Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) individuals harms the health and well-being of LGBT individuals and their families in many ways. Like everyone else, LGBT individuals should receive regular health care when and where they need it, without fear of disclosing their sexual history and gender identity to their health care providers, and with the freedom to involve their partners in their care. But they often cannot do so, or believe they cannot do so, based on the threat of discrimination.

HHS has in place a matrix of powerful protections to ensure that LGBT individuals have equal access to health care and freedom from discrimination:

  • The Affordable Care Act prevents health insurance companies from raising rates or denying coverage because of a pre-existing condition like HIV/AIDS, cancer, or mental health concerns – or because they happen to be LGBT.
  • Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies can no longer impose a lifetime limit on coverage. This is particularly important to HIV/AIDS patients, and anyone else who has a chronic condition.
  • The landmark civil rights provision, Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, prohibits discrimination against individuals based on sex, which includes discrimination based on sex stereotyping and gender identity. While implementing regulations are being drafted, HHS is accepting complaints and enforcing the law.
  • Insurance companies are prohibited from discriminating against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, including against same-sex spouses with respect to an offer of spousal coverage.

All of this is good news for the LGBT community, particularly when we consider that prior to the new coverage options provided under the health care law, one in three lower income LGBT adults in our country did not have health insurance. You don’t have to be an expert to figure out what we need to do to get the word out. It’s outreach. It’s education. It’s communication. Information is a powerful tool to equip individuals, friends, family, and community leaders with knowledge to ensure LGBT people have access to quality, affordable health care and freedom from discrimination.

We hope you will continue to join us in this important work.