Members of minority populations face formidable barriers when accessing health information, health care and social services. 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 Additionally, 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
Community Health Workers (CHWs) are particularly well-suited to help individuals overcome these barriers by providing culturally competent health education, increased linkages to health care and social services, and successful community mobilization. With adequate training and support, CHWs are perfectly situated to provide prevention education on HIV and AIDS and related illnesses, while helping to reduce the stereotypes and stigmas that result from misinformation.
Supported by SAMHSA, MHP Salud CHWs from our Amate program conduct outreach to Latino youth and young adults aged 13-24 living in Orange County, Florida to address the stigmas concerning HIV by providing education related to HIV and substance misuse prevention. Topics include building knowledge about pregnancy, STDs, HIV, and safer sex. CHWs also help by accessing screening services, connecting participants to a care provider, and identifying and addressing needs related to the social determinants of health.