Immigrants fear discrimination due to HIV status
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Health officials in Utah are concerned that confusion regarding HIV could cause the virus to spread among the state's growing population of African immigrants. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, many African immigrants who come to the state do not disclose their HIV status for fear of being stigmatized. Furthermore, many people may not be visiting STD testing centers in Utah due to the same fear.
"If you are sick, let people know you are sick - just be bold," said Joseph Nahas, an immigrant from Sierra Leone who works at Utah’s Refugee Services Office, quoted by the news source. "You can save so many lives."
New data on the HIV virus in Utah show that two-thirds of black people with the virus were born in another country. Matt Mietchen, an epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health, told the news source that this figure raises a few questions. For example, does this mean that the immigrants are coming to the U.S. already infected with the virus, or are they contracting it in Utah? Either way, it's important to make sure that these people are receiving sufficient care.
According to the news source, many African immigrants come to the U.S. mistakenly believing that HIV is not only prevalent in this country. Furthermore, many of these individuals may not trust that HIV testing or treatment is truly confidential.
Plus News, an HIV information source, states that some immigrants may not visit STD testing centers because they are not in the U.S. legally, and are afraid that immigration services will notice and deport them. However, Jim Alexander, a Washington D.C.-based immigration lawyer, told the news source that he has gotten many clients asylum due to their HIV status.
It's important to work to reduce HIV stigma among all populations in the U.S., including immigrants.
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