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March 20, 2013

Dear Colleagues,

Today, March 20th, marks National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NNHAAD), a day to recognize the impact of HIV/AIDS on Native communities. HIV is a serious public health issue among American Indians/Alaska Natives. American Indians/Alaska Natives face challenges that increase risk for HIV infection including poverty, stigma associated with gay relationships and HIV, mental health, alcohol and drug abuse, and sexually transmitted diseases—all of which increase the risk of HIV in Native communities and create obstacles to HIV prevention and treatment.

While approximately 20% of HIV-infected Americans do not know they are infected, this figure is 25% among American Indians/Alaska Natives. American Indians/Alaska Natives diagnosed with HIV infection or AIDS have one of the shortest survival times of all ethnic or racial groups, suggesting that they may be diagnosed late in the course of their infection or have limited access to care.

To address this epidemic, we must confront these factors that continue to place Native people at risk for HIV infection. CDC continues to support effective HIV/AIDS prevention activities through the encouragement of early detection through HIV testing and by using culturally competent HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment strategies.

On this observance of NNHAAD, and throughout the year, Native organizations are encouraged to plan and host HIV/AIDS awareness events promoting testing and speaking out against HIV stigma. Social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter start conversations that together we can keep going all year long. We appreciate your support of Native communities, National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and our programs throughout the year.

Sincerely,

Rima F. Khabbaz, MD
Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases
Director, Office of Infectious Diseases
Acting Director, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
www.cdc.gov/nchhstp  

Jonathan H. Mermin, MD, MPH
Director, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
www.cdc.gov/hiv  

Delight Satter, MPH
Associate Director for Tribal Support
Office for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.cdc.gov/stltpublichealth/

This NNHAAD observance is a collaborative effort between five community-based organizations— Asian Pacific Islander Wellness Center, Colorado State University CA7AE: HIV/AIDS Prevention Project, Great Plains Tribal Chairmen's Health Board, Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., and National Native American AIDS Prevention Center—with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.

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