WINSTON-SALEM — The AIDS Care Service (ACS) has announced that it has launched a program targeted at the Hispanic population.
Called AMiGOS, it is coordinated by Pedro A. Castillo. AMIGOS stands for: A = Ayudando (helping); Mi = a mi (my); G = Gente a permanecer (people to remain); O = Orgullosa y (proud and); S = Saludable (healthy). In English it means: “Helping my people to remain proud and healthy””. It is one of seven core programs offered by ACS.
The primary intent of the program is to make people of Spanish-speaking origin aware that HIV (VIH in Spanish) and AIDS (SIDA in Spanish), as well as any other type of STDs (ETS in Spanish), are all around us. The percentage of Hispanic people afflicted with these issues in N.C. is higher than the national percentage of the Latino/Hispanic population in the U.S.
The Hispanic population, the largest national minority with approximately 15 percent of the population and rising, happens to be afflicted severely by HIV/AIDS.
There are estimates that 20 percent of the total U.S. population infected with HIV/AIDS are people of Hispanic/Latino origin.
The alarming report accentuates the concern, considering that the Hispanic population transcends racial barriers (meaning that there are Hispanics of all races and nationalities), and the numbers could go even higher.
AMiGOS’ focus is on education, prevention and assistance through trained volunteers who have decided to take action to slow down the spread of this disease in N.C.
ACS provides a very comprehensive training program for those who choose to join them on this effort. They provide basic information, teach about the related issues surrounding the disease and all other STDs and train on how to approach the subject matter among peers and make public presentations. They emphasize the best weapon against the spread of HIV/AIDS — education and support for individuals and their families already afflicted by this disease.
Traditionally the Hispanic cultures are less likely to address issues of sexuality, drugs and sexual orientation, therefore, forcing the disease and those afflicted by it even deeper in the closet. The sense of shame, coupled with the lack of services or inability to access services due to their immigration status, economic status or family/friends status, makes it that much harder to address the reality that HIV/AIDS is present and growing.
ACS provides an eight-hour seminar with training and education to create “promotores de salud” (health promoters in English). These health promoters become volunteer peer-to-peer educators or AMiGOS (friends).
Along with the training, they have monthly support meetings to ensure the program’s success.
ACS does community presentations, group training, health fairs, media exposure, inter-agency support and program development and at all times tries to communicate the need for knowledge and education about this disease to the target population in their own environments, in their own language and in a non-threatening or judgmental atmosphere.