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National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day 2014

Mother teaching daughter to sewMarch 20, 2014, is National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. This day is an opportunity for Native people across the United States to learn about HIV and AIDS, encourage HIV testing, and get involved in HIV prevention.

On March 20, we recognize the impact of HIV and AIDS on American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians (collectively referred to as Native people). This 8th national observance is our chance to raise awareness of the risks of HIV to Native people, to help communities understand what contributes to those risks, and to encourage individuals to get tested for HIV.

CDC recommends that adults and adolescents get tested for HIV as least once as a routine part of medical care. People at increased risk should get an HIV test at least every year. Sexually active gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) might benefit from HIV testing every 3 to 6 months. Women should get an HIV test each time they are pregnant.

Overall, approximately 20% of HIV-infected Americans do not know they are infected, while among AIs and ANs this figure is 25%. Native Hawaiians have the highest proportion (46%) of people diagnosed with AIDS within 12 months of HIV diagnosis, and AI/AN have the second highest proportion (38%), suggesting that they may be diagnosed late in the course of their HIV infection. This highlights the need to educate AIs and ANs on the facts about HIV prevention and access to basic health care services.

Photo: Young Native American man

HIV in Native Communities in the United States

HIV is a serious public health issue among American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/AN). AI/AN face specific HIV prevention challenges, including poverty, culturally-based stigma against MSM, and high rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STD), relative to whites and Hispanics/Latinos.1

Stigma associated with gay relationships and HIV, barriers to mental health care, and high rates of alcohol and drug abuse, STDs, and poverty all increase the risk of HIV in AI/AN communities and create obstacles to HIV prevention and treatment.

The reasons Native people are burdened by HIV are not directly related to race or ethnicity but rather to some of the challenges faced by many communities across the country. To address this epidemic, we must confront the factors that continue to place Native people at risk of contracting HIV, including circumstances in which people are born, grow up, live, work, and age, as well as the systems put in place to deal with illness.

Through partnerships with community-based organizations, native communities are working to increase effective HIV/AIDS prevention activities and encourage early detection through testing. By using culturally competent HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs, we can limit the spread of this devastating disease in Native communities.

What Can You Do?

  • Watch the Indian Health Service video about HIV Testing
  • Get tested for HIV. Find a testing location by visiting your local IHS, Tribal or Urban facility or by visiting http://www.ihs.gov/hivaids/index.cfm.
  • Visit the Act Against AIDS website to get the facts about HIV/AIDS, including:
    • Learning the risk factors for getting HIV
    • Avoiding high-risk behaviors
    • Practicing safer methods to prevent HIV infection
  • Learn how people with HIV and their loved ones are increasing HIV awareness and reducing the stigma about HIV by watching their personal stories on the CDC Let's Stop HIV Together campaign website
  • Talk about HIV prevention with family, friends, and colleagues
  • Provide support to people living with HIV/AIDS

References

  1. Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race.

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