About 17 percent of the U.S. population is Latino. But Latinos account for 18 percent of total reported AIDS cases and about 20 percent of all new AIDS cases reported in 2003.

For Latinos ages 35 to 44, AIDS is the third leading cause of death. Oklahomans Latinos and those around the country mark AIDS National Latino Awareness Day today.

Local and national community service groups, religious groups, advocates, those with the disease and other participants will use the occasion to seek out more testing, funding and treatment. Today marks the third year for the awareness event.

Community advocates say Latinos bear more than their share of AIDS cases. Hispanics go too long between tests or adopt risky lifestyles. Some bear HIV cases that swell into AIDS before treatment.

Local and national Latino organizations are asked to make a "broad effort" and open their members' eyes to testing. Cultural obstacles are in the way as the "silent disease" makes its way among the population.

The sponsoring agencies challenge Latino families to confront the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and to have frank talks about sexuality and drug abuse.

Today is the one day set aside to renew the commitment to ending the spread of HIV and ensuring quality of life to those with HIV regardless of their Spanish speaking country of origin or immigration status.

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