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How Racism And Xenophobia Harm Latinas’ Reproductive Health

When it comes to health, race and ethnicity are not risk factors – systemic oppression is. That’s why I, a midwife and reproductive health activist, get frustrated when I come across “African American” and “Latina” listed as risks for pregnancy and reproductive complications. This puts the blame on marginalized people for their illnesses, when, in reality, it’s the conditions they live under — racism, poverty as well as xenophobia — that have a direct impact on health and well-being.

Our lives don’t occur in a vacuum. What happens to us throughout our existence, as well as our parents’ experiences, remains connected to us even in our present — and all of this plays a role in our health.

I learned this while studying to be a doula. At the time, I came across “Closing the Black-White Gap in Birth Outcomes: A Life-course Approach,” a study in which researcher Michael C. Lu succinctly explains why connection to our past is important to understanding why Black and Latinx pregnant individuals experience more complications than their white counterparts.

While the article focuses on African-American women and communities in particular, it made me reflect on Latinx, immigrant, trans, gender non-conforming and other marginalized individuals’ lives in this oppressive system. In a nutshell, being under stress from a young age, even as early as in utero, can impact the function of the immune system and lead to someone being vulnerable to infectious and inflammatory diseases later in life. Even more, this chronic stress can cause wear and tear on a person’s body and affect their health and body’s function over time.

Being a first-generation Black Dominican has exposed me to stress from an early age because of the environments I had to live and interact with. But this is not a result of any shortcoming of my parents. Rather, it’s explicit bias on the part of institutions.

Before immigrating to this country, we must consider the reasons groups of people leave their homelands to begin with. For Latinxs, who experience political and economic strife in South and Central America as well as the Caribbean, it is common to hear that families migrated to the U.S. in hopes of creating a better life for themselves and their children. For others, violence pushes them away from their native lands.

This combination of experiences often means that women had little to no access to quality reproductive health services, such as annual exams, mammograms, contraception, family planning information and maternity care, in their countries of origin. For those with health care services, the facilities that serve them are often inadequate. With a high volume of patients and not enough medical staff, the clinics that care for impoverished individuals lack supplies and up-to-date equipment, and the medications needed may sometimes be unavailable. This is all compounded by the mere stress of living in impoverished communities.

Under this type of suffering, many times accompanied by gender-based violence, a person has to put their health and well-being on the back burner to pursue stability for themselves and their families.

Upon immigrating to the United States, the stress does not go away. It may look different, and many may even experience some reprieve with a source of income, a more stable home as well as access to public assistance for their food and health care, but discrimination continues to persist and affects women’s reproductive and maternal health services.

For decades, anti-immigrant sentiment has permeated into health care. Xenophobia doesn’t stop at difficult paths to citizenship, deportation risks, low-paying jobs and lack of insurance. For those who have access to health care, there’s also risk of receiving inadequate education and information due to not speaking English, receiving and/or witnessing condescending tones from medical staff because of economic status, skin tone, language or immigration status, as well as having procedures done during birth without one’s consent.

For example, the Office of Minority Health research reports that Latina mothers are almost twice as likely to begin prenatal care in the third trimester or not receive prenatal care at all, as compared to non-Latina white mothers. At first glance, it seems like Latinas are irresponsible or “non-compliant;” however, for many, this care is simply unavailable or inaccessible.

This issue is further compounded by the intersection of race within the Latinx community. Though Latinxs tend to be healthier in a few areas than most in what some call the “Latino paradox,” Black Latinxs end up facing much of the same problems and outcomes that African Americans do, such as maternal mortality and morbidity as well as higher rates of hypertension.

These everyday stressors, which don’t include intimate partner violence, sexual trauma, labor abuse and many of the other ills that impact our community, can cause insomnia, anxiety and depression. And it is difficult to be well and make healthy decisions when one is constantly assaulted by stress they cannot escape.

Racism and xenophobia take a damaging toll on our bodies. We are not “crazy” for feeling overwhelmed by the oppressive circumstances we live in that are largely dictated by how the United States treats our racialized bodies. Understanding the context of why we feel ill and experience barriers to wellness gives us the opportunity to build community with each other to create networks of health providers and resources to promote better health. The trauma and pain we have endured must be understood so that we can create a better reality for ourselves and tools to be well.

Read: For Latinx Immigrants, Language Can Be A Major Barrier From Accessing Necessary Abortion Services

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The Spanish ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ Is Being Shared To Honor Hispanic Workers Fighting COVID-19

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The Spanish ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ Is Being Shared To Honor Hispanic Workers Fighting COVID-19

There’s no denying that the world looks a lot different now than it did in 1947. And while the list of all of the positive changes that the decades stretching between now and then have done for the world and minorities, a recent campaign is also highlighting the ways in which our current president could take some notes on certain values the United States held dear during this time. Particularly ones that had been pressed for by one of our former presidents.

As part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor Policy” effort, he worked to promote positive and healthy relations between the United States in Latin American countries.

At the time Rooseveltaimed to ensure that the North, Central and South American countries avoided breaking under the influence of Axis countries during World War II. As part of this campaign, Roosevelt comissioned a Spanish and a Portuguese version of the U.S. national anthem. According to Time Magazine he also “recruited Hollywood to participate in this Good Neighbor Policy; Walt Disney went on goodwill tour of South America, hoping to find a new market for his films, and ended up producing two movies inspired by the trip: Saludos Amigos (1942) and The Three Caballeros (1944). The Brazilian star Carmen Miranda also got a boost, and her role in The Gang’s All Here made her even more famous in the U.S. And alongside these cross-cultural exchanges, the U.S. government decided it needed an anthem that could reach Spanish speakers.”

According to NPR, Clotilde Arias, wrote wrote the translation at the end of World War II, was born in the small Peruvian city, Iquitos in 1901 and moved to New York City to become a composer when she was 22-years-old. Her version of the anthem is now part of an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Now in an effort to support Latino communities affected by the coronavirus, the non-profit We Are All Human Foundation’s Hispanic Star campaign commissioned the a remake of the song.

Hoping to raise awareness of its Hispanic Recovery Plan and efforts to help to connect Hispanic small businesses and workers with resources during the pandemic, the campaign brought the old recording from obscurity.

For the song, the 2019 winner of the singing competition La Voz,  Jeidimar Rijos, performed “El Pendón Estrellado.” Or, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” 

The song has already received quite a bit of comments and support on Youtube.

Hang in there, fam. We can only get through this together.

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A Group Of Primarily Female Mexican Scientists Discovered A Potential Cure For HPV

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A Group Of Primarily Female Mexican Scientists Discovered A Potential Cure For HPV

“If you’re having sex, you’ll likely contract HPV at some point in your life.” That is how one gynecologist explained the sexually transmitted diseases to me, which completely freaked me out. Even though human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus contracted through sexual intercourse, it doesn’t make it less scary when you realize that it’s related to 150 viruses and can lead to cancer for both men and women. While there are vaccines available to prevent the spread of HPV to a broader age group than in previous years, we are finally closer to finding a cure.

A group of primarily female Mexican scientists at the National Polytechnic Institute cured their patients of HPV.

Twitter/@StephDenisse

The team of researchers, led by Dr. Eva Ramos Gallegos (pictured above), treated 420 patients from Veracruz and Oaxaca, and 29 from Mexico City. They used “photodynamic therapy” which “is a treatment that involves using a drug, called a photosensitizer or photosensitizing agent, and a particular type of light to treat different areas of the body” according to their report.

The doctors found extraordinary results through their method of treatment that led to cure 100 percent of the people that had HPV. They also cured 64.3 percent of people infected with HPV that had cancerous cells, and 57.2 percent of people that had cancerous cells without the HPV virus. That last result could mean that a cure for cancer is not far behind.

“Unlike other treatments, it only eliminates damaged cells and does not affect healthy structures. Therefore, it has great potential to decrease the death rate from cervical cancer,” Dr. Gallegos told Radio Guama.

People on social media ecstatically hailed the finding by the Mexicana researchers.

We highly doubt President Trump will ever mention this achievement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has yet to comment on this remarkable finding.

While there’s more testing that will inevitably take place, we will have to wait and see how long it takes for other researchers and scientists to catch on to their method of treatment.

The fact that a woman-led team discovered this cure is something we should all be applauding.

Hopefully, their research will get more funding so they can further test patients and help educate others about their process.

According to the CDC,  79 million Americans, primarily teens and people in the early 20s, are infected with HPV. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer. The way to prevent contracting HPV is by getting the vaccine — available for males and females — and by using condoms. However, you can still contract HPV because HPV can infect areas not covered by a condom – so condoms may not adequately protect against getting HPV.

READ: Here Are A Handful Of Reasons Why We Need To Talk To Latinx Kids About S-E-X

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