Stigma Prevents Many Native Americans With HIV/AIDS From Seeking Treatment
Stigma associated with HIV/AIDS in the Native American community keeps many Indians from getting tested for HIV and seeking treatment if they are infected, the AP/Arizona Republic reports. "People still see it as a gay white man's disease. A young, gay Indian man may not hold himself in high regard and act out in a safe way," Jack Jackson, a Navajo Indian consultant with the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center told a meeting of the National Congress of American Indians. According to the CDC, through December of last year 3,208 Native Americans had contracted HIV. Of those with HIV, 2,337 had developed AIDS and 1,217 have died. Although the number of infected Native Americans seems small, the AIDS rate in the Native American community is relatively high at 11.3 cases per 100,000 people, compared to nine cases per 100,000 among whites. U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher recently said that the Native American population was sitting on an HIV/AIDS "time bomb." Michael Bird, executive director of the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center, said that the federal government needs to provide more care for Native Americans with HIV/AIDS "because of its history of taking over Indian lands." The government is currently working with tribes to raise awareness and to increase testing and treatment. However, many Native Americans may not have "easy access" to clinics where they can be tested or receive medication, facilitating the spread of the virus, according to CDC epidemiologist Jeanne Bertolli. She called for more federal funding of educational programs and better reporting of HIV and AIDS cases (AP/Arizona Republic, 11/28).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.