AIDS Cases Among American Indians Increasing, Improved Prevention Efforts Needed, Advocates Say
Increasing numbers of AIDS cases are being recorded among American Indians, and improved efforts to combat the disease in the population are needed, some HIV/AIDS experts have said recently, the Yuma Sun reports. According to Monica Ruiz of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, 10.6 of every 100,000 American Indians are living with AIDS, compared with 72.8 of every 100,000 blacks, 28.5 of every 100,000 Hispanics, 9.0 of every 100,000 whites and 7.6 of every 100,000 Asians. According to the Sun, American Indians rank third in rates of AIDS diagnoses among all racial groups in the country, even though they make up less than 1% of the national population. Other statistics indicate that 61% of American Indians are contracting HIV through male-to-male sexual contact, followed by injection drug use at 15% and heterosexual contact at 10%, according to the Sun. Ruiz attributes a lack of adequate medical care and prevention education to the disparity, adding that most tribes are located in rural communities, which exacerbates the situation. In addition, although American Indians engage in risky behaviors similar to other groups, "these behaviors often occur in environments of extreme poverty ... and coexist along other modern 'epidemics,' such as alcohol and drug abuse, high sexually transmitted infection rates and gender-based violence," Ruiz said. Some American Indians also are reluctant to trust and make use of government programs or institutions, and the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS is an issue in the population, according to Ruiz. She recommended more culturally sensitive prevention and education programs, adding that some American Indian tribes and communities are making improved efforts to combat the disease. "There is some progress, but so much more needs to be done," Ruiz said, adding, "HIV is contributing to the destruction of our First Nations peoples. We must act now. This is everyone's problem" (Fenger, Yuma Sun, 4/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.