Even before the new coronavirus (COVID-19) changed our way of life and the course of our future, AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC) already knew that members of the Latino/Latina/Latinx community in the U.S. were not treated equitably when compared to their white counterparts in many facets of life. Decades of discrimination, state-sanctioned violence, targeted and cruel immigration policies, and health care and economic disparities have disproportionately impacted our Latinx allies. Our systems have failed vital members of our nation’s fabric.
On Wednesday, May 6, we learned about a new reason to stand alongside Latinx folks in the face of systemic racism: COVID-19 has ravaged Illinois’ Latinx community. Of the 26,000 Latinx people who have been tested for COVID-19, nearly 16,000 — or roughly 60% — have tested positive for the virus. Among the general population, only 20% of total confirmed cases have been positive, according to state health officials and Gov. JB Pritzker. That means that 3 in 5 Latinxs who have been tested for COVID-19 have been confirmed positive, compared with 1 in 5 Illinoisans overall.
We already knew that COVID-19 was impacting Black and Latinx communities harder. First and foremost, the number of deaths and new cases in Black and Latinx communities was already higher than the general population. But COVID-19 is also hitting the financial wellness of communities of color, who are largely unable to fully shelter and work remotely compared to white counterparts. On top of that, strict recommendations to wear face masks in public were accompanied by stigma and discrimination for Black and Latinx men in particular.
We must do better. AFC must also do better, and we are committed to supporting Latinx Illinoisans in the face of COVID-19. The intersection between COVID-19 and HIV is clear; Latinx people represent 23% of new HIV cases in Illinois compared to 17% of the general state population. We strongly support city and state efforts to ramp up testing and prevention efforts for Illinois’ Latinx community so that we can protect their wellbeing and help them thrive. In addition, we call on the city, state and federal government to take the following steps: