On Oct. 11, the Trinitonian ran a photograph on the front page, above the fold, of a San Antonio AIDS Foundation van that visited the Coates Esplanade. On the van is a woman, adorned with a yellow flower in her hair, with a speech bubble extending from her lips.
The bubble reads, “¡Ay! I didn’t know that I could get it that way.”
Beneath the speech bubble is the text, “Are you positive you’re negative? Get HIV tested here.”
The first thing that bothered me about this image was the connection between the Spanish language and HIV, as though this issue only affects San Antonio’s Hispanic population. HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, can lead to AIDS and can be transmitted through sexual contact, pregnancy and childbirth, injection drug use, occupational exposure and a blood transfusion or organ transplant.
HIV is not a Hispanic problem. Nor is AIDS. The speech bubble does not read “Ouch!” but “¡Ay!” This small use of the Spanish language is insensitive because of the implication that Hispanics are more likely to contract HIV or AIDS than another race.
Moreover, the woman attributed with this statement is depicted as Hispanic, with a flower in her black hair. This sexualization of a Hispanic woman is also inconsiderate. Historically, Hispanic women are either virginalized or portrayed as the “spicy Latina.” Hispanic women should neither be exoticized nor eroticized. This image of a Hispanic woman, linked with text regarding HIV/AIDS, strongly suggests that Hispanic women are seductresses or involve themselves in improper sexual behavior.
Furthermore, the question exists of what “that way” means. Are Hispanic women having sex in a manner unique from everyone else? Are they indulging in some kind of morally corrupt behavior that makes them more likely to contract HIV/AIDS? The woman, who appears to spring from a newspaper comic strip, doesn’t understand how she has landed in this predicament, further implying that Hispanic women are unknowledgable about how someone gets HIV or AIDS.
Still, I understand what the San Antonio AIDS Foundation is trying to do. They are trying to reach out to San Antonio’s Hispanic population, estimated at 63 percent by the United States Census Bureau. While Hispanics constitute a tremendous portion of San Antonio’s populace, I believe they are not being engaged in the conversation about HIV/AIDS in the proper manner.
The U.S. facts are this: Gay and bisexual men of all races are the most severely affected by HIV. 1 million people are living with HIV in the U.S. Every 9.5 minutes someone in the U.S. is affected by HIV. Lastly, by race, African Americans face the most drastic HIV burden.
HIV awareness needs to continue and the work the San Antonio AIDS foundation does is honorable. The portrayal of Hispanic women, on this van, is not.
Carlos Anchondo is the News Editor. He is majoring in international studies and communication.