Miss Universe, Zuleyka Rivera, was named the International Ambassador for the Latino Commission on AIDS in Miami Thursday. In her first message, she urged people to get tested for AIDS.
Wherever Miss Universe goes, there are usually plenty of cameras and microphones not far behind. Zuleyka Rivera of Puerto Rico has decided to use her title to let the world know how AIDS is devastating the U.S. Latino community, her native Puerto Rico and people around the world. Miss Zuleyka Rivera as the International Ambassador of the Latino Commission on AIDS," said Dennis deLeon.
Latinos make up 14 percent of the U.S. population, but account for 20 percent of all those living with AIDS in the United States today.
Eighteen-year-old Rivera said cultural sensitivities and taboos prevent many people from talking about AIDS as well as about sex.
She said it is very important that we raise awareness that this is something human, something natural. Many people are afraid to talk about sex, or to say a lot of words that might sound rather strange in our society. But she said now we are in a new century and this is a new generation.
AIDS is the third leading cause of death for Latina-women age 35 to 44. AIDS activist deLeon says many Latinas do not believe they are as vulnerable to HIV-AIDS as other groups, such as gay men.
He said many believe they are safe because they are married or in a committed relationship, and do not get tested. On October 15, Miss Universe will set a good example as a Latina by getting tested herself.
"She will be at our offices in New York to take the HIV test, with cameras and in public to demonstrate that she, Miss Universe, like every other woman and every other man never knows their status until they test negative," he said. "You can think you're negative, but you never know until you test negative."
Miss Universe invited everyone in the audience to come along and get an HIV test with her.