LONGMONT — Most of Boulder County’s Hispanic community knows how to prevent the spread of HIV but does not always practice safe sex, according to a new study by the Boulder County AIDS Project.
Around 40 percent of respondents said they never used condoms during intercourse, according to Dr. Steve DelCastillo, who conducted the study.
“That’s a pretty startling statistic. That’s something of concern,” he said as he presented the study’s findings during a public forum Thursday at the Longmont Civic Center.
The project asked questions about the Hispanic community’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviors relating to HIV through focus groups and a survey of 378 Hispanics in Boulder, Longmont and Lafayette.
It is difficult to tell how the rates differ from those of the general population, because no control group was surveyed in the study, DelCastillo noted.
A recurring theme of the data showed the community knows how to protect itself from HIV and AIDS but doesn’t always follow through.
In a series of 26 true-or-false questions testing participants’ knowledge about safe sex and AIDS, most respondents correctly answered 21 of the questions. Yet only 20 percent of respondents said they had discussed their HIV status with their partner. About 40 percent said they did not have condoms handy when sex was imminent.
A mix of cultural factors, such as religious beliefs that forbid condom use or macho attitudes that look down on condoms, may be part of the problem, BCAP prevention coordinator Silvia Reynoso said this week.
“Sex has been an issue that’s taboo, and they don’t want to talk about it,” she said.
But Reynoso suspects a lack of education is a bigger issue. Many men surveyed simply did not know how to use a condom. In turn, condoms distributed by social workers would not necessarily be used, she said.
BCAP employees hope to combat apparent gaps in safe-sex practices by hosting classes for women, who will then pass the knowledge on to their families and peers. About 80 percent of survey respondents said women are best suited to teach family members about HIV and sex.
Officials also hope to educate Hispanics about HIV risks by discussing the issues in free public health forums about other topics, such as healthy eating or heart disease, Reynoso said.
Brad Turner can be reached at 720-494-5420, or by e-mail at email@example.com.