Members of minority populations face formidable barriers when accessing health information, health care and social services. Some of these barriers include language and literacy, cultural differences, transportation issues, financial barriers, and lack of insurance. These factors, among others, contribute to the lack of accurate knowledge about HIV and how to prevent it and may delay individuals from reaching a diagnosis or receiving treatment.7
Community Health Workers (CHWs) are particularly well-suited to help individuals overcome these barriers through culturally competent health education, increased linkages to health care and social services, and successful community mobilization. With adequate training and support, CHWs can provide prevention education on HIV and AIDS and related illnesses, while helping to reduce the stereotypes and stigmas that result from misinformation. The tremendous stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS often leads to reluctance to seek testing or to talk with a health care provider, especially among communities of color.8 CHWs can overcome this barrier by bringing the information directly to their communities.
There is evidence demonstrating the success of CHW-led HIV prevention programs targeting Latino communities throughout the US. A recent intervention led by either HIV-positive or HIV-affected CHWs in three southwestern communities sought to decrease stigma surrounding HIV and increase knowledge on HIV and perception of risk. Results of the intervention found that stigma decreased and knowledge increased among the 579 underserved Latino adults impacted by the intervention.10 This further proves that when combined with the treatment and care of an HIV care team, CHW-led outreach activities, education, and community-level support are a powerful strategy for preventing HIV.