HIV knows no borders
by Daisy Barrera

Posted: 06.30.2014 at 12:05 AM

Oscar Lopez of the Valley Aids Council.

The recent wave of illegal immigration has brought many Central Americans to the Rio Grande Valley and they may be bringing a silent killer with them without even knowing it.

Right now, Honduras is one of the countries experiencing a quick rise in the number of people infected with HIV, according to Oscar Lopez of the Valley Aids Council.

We checked into the numbers and according to the United Nations Aids Organization, there are 31,672 cases of the virus in Honduras.

The majority of the cases are in heterosexuals ages 20-39.

Lopez said it's concerning since many are making their way across our borders.

"(It's concerning because) one, that they don't know or haven't gotten the education about this disease," Lopez said. "And two, that possibly they may already be infected, but don't know it."

Once Hondurans arrive in the U.S. and are apprehended by border patrol agents, they are screened for several diseases, Lopez said, such as, "scabies, lice - what's going on with them in terms of other illnesses."

But HIV, is not one of them.

"We should find a way to not only care for these people, link them with families, but also screen them for HIV," Lopez said.

It's hard to track how many cases the immigration influx is really introducing to the Valley and country, Lopez said, since most go unreported. But Lopez stresses HIV knows no boundaries and it's already here. Every day one person in the Valley is diagnosed with HIV.

"You need to use a condom, you need to get tested, you need to make sure your partner knows their status," Lopez said. "It could be from an undocumented immigrant, but it could also be from the cute girl at the bar, when you went out of town- so you just have to be really careful."

Although the U.S. and central America may be worlds apart, the Valley shares one common aspect with those countries which may be contributing to the rise in cases here at home.

"It's difficult to talk about sex and sexuality - the same is here in the Valley," Lopez said. "We have parents that won't talk to their kids (about sex)."

Lopez adds the VAC is invited in to immigration centers in the Rio Grande Valley about once a month to test immigrants there. They also visit centers where children are housed, when it's suspected that a child might be positive.