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Los Angeles.– The Mexican governmental agency in charge of efforts to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS outlined for emigrant compatriots and others in Los Angeles its efforts to raise public awareness of the disease and counter the machismo and homophobia that contribute to its spread.

At a conference at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), the director of the National Center for the Prevention and Control of AIDS, or Censida, Jorge Saavedra, said that it is also important to combat machismo "because it puts women as well as men at risk." Saavedra said that people have to stop thinking that "I'm not going to get (AIDS), I'm not going to get infected and so I don't need to use a condom."

The Censida chief said that machismo in societies like Mexico results in "the prevention messages not getting to the people who should get them because they feel vulnerable that they'll be set apart, vulnerable that they'll be unable to say what their sexual orientation is, and fearful of being rejected."

"In Mexico, we see that fighting homophobia is one of the best ways to fight HIV," said Saavedra, referring to the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS.

Among the measures that Censida is employing is a radio campaign financed by the Mexican government that is geared to fighting the fear and prejudice surrounding the disease.

According to UCLA data, in a poll carried out recently in Mexico, 57 percent of those interviewed said that they would not want to live in the same house as someone with AIDS.

And 66 percent of the respondents said that they did not want to share the same house with a homosexual.

UCLA's Pacific AIDS Education and Training Center has been collaborating with health care providers on HIV cases in Mexico for more than 10 years.

Those efforts include voluntary training programs for treating AIDS for more than 5,000 health care providers in more than 20 Mexican states.

Rosa Solorio, an assistant professor at UCLA's Devid Geffen Medical School, said that "many people are living with AIDS without knowing it." "Therefore, motivating the public to get tested is the important thing," she said.

During the conference, Saavedra said that another problem is that people who are living in Mexico without the proper residence documents have no access to medical care or to medicines to treat HIV.

"There are a lot of immigrants from South and Central America who either have to wait until they cross the U.S. border to get treatment or return to their countries to have access to health services," she said.

Dr. Solorio said that in countries such as the United States, immigrants can receive treatment, and when people do not have access to treatment - like in Mexico - then they do not get tested for AIDS.

"It's important for everyone to have access to treatment," she concluded.

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