National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) is Wednesday, October 15.  It is the perfect time to address the fact that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is a family crisis in Latino communities across the United States. The Centers for Disease Control has recently determined that when the Puerto Rican HIV/AIDS surveillance data was integrated with the CDC’s existing national data, Latinos account for 22% of all new infections in the U.S.

As the Latino community grows faster than any other group in the U.S., so will HIV infections among Latinos unless strong, swift, and culturally sensitive steps are taken.

Over the past five years, the cable industry’s AIDS action organization, Cable Positive, has been a media partner to NLAAD, which holds events nation-wide to raise awareness in Latino communities. Since the beginning of the partnership, Cable Positive has enabled the Latino Commission on AIDS (LCOA) to focus more of its scarce resources on direct community service. It has done so by creating, producing, and distributing public service announcements (PSAs) nationally, saving LCOA tens of thousands of dollars.

Year after year, Cable Positive has produced Spanish-language TV spots featuring prominent Latino personalities including: Rosie Perez, Wilmer Valderrama, Erick Elias, Judy Marte, Miss Universe 2007 Zuleyka Rivera, Lorena Rojas and Julissa Bermudez. These were distributed and carried in communities across the country.

Two years ago, responding to the growing need for Spanish-language PSAs, Cable Positive established two additional categories for original programming at its annual POP Awards, to recognize outstanding HIV/AIDS related Spanish-language programming. Univision and Telemundo were among the winners of the Outstanding Spanish Language Programming Awards in the past.  This year, Univision crossed the programming language divide by being unanimously selected as Outstanding Cable Network of the Year – English or Spanish – in the area of HIV/AIDS programming.

It won the prestigious honor of POP Network of the Year for its continued support of HIV/AIDS awareness initiatives in Hispanic/Latino communities and its continued commitment to the production of new HIV/AIDS-related programming geared toward the Hispanic/Latino audience. 

Working with such powerful communicators of public health messages like Univision, we can multiply many times the effectiveness of community based AIDS organizations that focus on Latino communities. The cable television industry – through the work of Cable Positive – leads all other industries in working with local AIDS organizations that need help. 

In Denver, our Cable Positive chapter has supported the local AIDS organization, La Casa, for years, bringing assistance to women who are HIV positive. In Los Angeles, we’ve supported key AIDS awareness raising initiatives with the Wall Las Memorias, a respected AIDS organization in Los Angeles’ Latino community. And in New York City, Cable Positive’s chapter is, just this week, announcing a partnership with the Hispanic AIDS Forum, a local AIDS organization that serves Latinos infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Each of the Cable Positive regional chapters raise tens of thousands of dollars, along with public awareness about HIV/AIDS.  We are proud that we will continue to focus still more of our attention and valuable resources in communities – like Latino communities across America – at greatest risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

It’s the right thing for our powerful industry to do.

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Mr Gutierrez is Chairman of Cable Positive’s Board of Directors and EVP Human Resources, Showtime Networks, CBS Sports & CBS College Sports. Steve Villano is President & CEO, Cable Positive.

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