Community Voices

Latinas

Although there is not a high prevalence of HIV among Latinas, DC’s Latino/a/x community is growing, and HIV testing among Latinas may be affected by immigration status or other issues affecting access to healthcare, leading to an underestimate of the actual number of Latinas living with HIV. In an effort to incorporate heterosexual cisgender Latinas in HIV-prevention efforts, a community conversation was held with five Latinas in early March 2020. All participants were immigrants, and the group was facilitated in Spanish. The average age of the women was 42.

Concerns

Immigration – The participants felt that more discrimination exists now than in the past. Access to services is worse because fears related to immigration and discrimination prevent Latinas from attempting to access services. Latinas end up having to make difficult choices between a potential pathway to citizenship or accepting available public services for themselves and their families. “You feel you have no rights, so when you are told ‘no,’ what do you do from there?”

Economic security – To afford rent and food, members of Latino/a/x families often have to hold multiple jobs. This affects the family unit, especially the children. Language is often an obstacle to finding work, knowing one’s rights, advocating for family or self, and accessing services.

Family – Latinas often have an enormous sense of responsibility to their family. They are expected to work outside and inside the home, and their husbands are not always supportive. Latinas don’t get to focus on themselves or their needs, health or otherwise. Some Latinas said they struggle with partners and husbands about gender roles and machismo ideologies. In extreme cases, this struggle includes domestic violence, and, again, Latinas may not know their individual rights related to domestic violence.

Trauma – The trauma of immigration, being in a new place where you do not feel accepted or know the language, where you are scared to open your mouth and speak, and where you are unsure of whom to trust, often leads to social isolation. Participants worried that these experiences, traumas, family hardships, and sentiments would get passed on and become part of their children’s lives.

Strengths

Family and community – The women share a sense of community among Latinas, especially a commitment to their family and helping each other. Motherhood is an important part of their identity.

Resilience – Participants made tremendous sacrifices when they left their country and started over somewhere new. They recognize the new opportunities they have in the United States and are willing to work hard to ensure a better life for their family.

Opportunities

  • Removing language barriers by providing opportunities to learn English, with content about health and legal literacy, including legal rights, children’s rights, sexual health information, domestic violence resources, and information on navigating systems, how to advocate for themselves, how to understand laws, and the health care system.
  • There is a need for a list of resources and bilingual counselors available in cases of crisis. Latinas want their children to be safe.
  • Hold programs where Latinas already are, such as playgrounds, schools, markets, to make it easier for them to attend.
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