Communities Nationwide Commemorate National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
Thursday marks the second annual National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, which seeks to increase education and reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS among American Indian, Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native populations, Indian Country Today reports.
Roughly 11 out of every 100,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives were diagnosed with HIV or AIDS in 2005, according to CDC data based on reports from 33 states. Eleven percent of Native Hawaiians have been diagnosed with AIDS, and the infection rate for the group has increased about 3% since 1995.
Although the total infection rate for American Indians and Alaska Natives represents less than 1% of total HIV/AIDS cases in the U.S., the combined group is the third most affected population in the nation, behind blacks and Hispanics.
In addition, the life expectancy of American Indians and Alaska Natives with HIV/AIDS is shorter than any other racial or ethnic group, according to the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center.
Warren Jimenez, executive director of NNAAPC, said infection rates among native populations are probably higher than the CDC figures indicate. Increases in rates of drug and alcohol abuse, as well as in rates of sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis, suggest that HIV/AIDS rates are likely increasing for the group, according to Jimenez. "There are significant gaps in reporting around this issue," he said, adding, "I think that stigma is an issue to face, the issue of sexuality or being two-spirited or being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender." Jimenez said drugs that prolong the life expectancies of people with HIV/AIDS are a positive development, but the "downside to that is that people have grown numb (to the danger of infection)." Decreasing media coverage of HIV/AIDS-related issues also has lowered awareness about behaviors that increase the risk of infection, he said.
NNAAPC and more than 55 American Indian, Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native community organizations around the country will hold events to mark the awareness day. The Native Capacity Building Assistance Network, which includes the NNAAPC, the Center for Applied Studies in American Ethnicity and the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, has developed an online 'tool kit' of fact sheets and promotional material to help communities plan events. An interactive map of national events is available online (LeMay, Indian Country Today, 3/19).
The National Alliance and State and Territorial AIDS Directors recently released a report about ways to address HIV/AIDS in American Indian communities. The report is available online (.pdf).