National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day takes place on March 20, 2019.
In 2007, three collaborating agencies known as the National Native Capacity Building Assistance Network (CBA) founded National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NNHAAD). It is considered a national mobilization effort designed to encourage Natives (American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians) across the United States to get educated, tested, and involved in prevention and treatment for HIV and AIDS.
Each year, NNHAAD is observed on the first day of Spring. The day was chosen through a national survey of the Native community. The four seasons are highly respected in Native cultures, representing the cycle of life. Spring represents balance (as day and night are at equal lengths) and a profound change, including new beginnings and birth. It is considered a celebration of life for all people.
In 2016, 243 people within American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations were diagnosed with HIV. They make up 1% of the 39,782 total diagnoses in the United States for 2016. It is estimated that 18.9% of this population remains undiagnosed, as well as 25% of the Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander (NHOPI) community. These diagnoses rates are why the education, testing, and treatment of HIV is so vital for Native populations.
However, with more than 570 federally recognized AI/AN tribes and 170 different languages, cultural diversity poses a challenge in HIV education and prevention. Native populations also face greater barriers when it comes to access to HIV education and services due socioeconomic issues like poverty, lack of insurance, higher drug and alcohol use rates, and concerns with stigma and confidentiality for those living in rural communities and on reservations.
Currently the CDC is working with Native communities to overcome these barriers and increase HIV awareness. The CDC works with the Indian Health Service (IHS) and tribal leaders to develop prevention approaches that will reach those at greatest risk for HIV infection. Together these organizations also support We R Native, a comprehensive health resource for Native Youth, and the Red Talon Project, which works to achieve a more coordinated Northwest tribal response for STDs and HIV. The CDC has also partnered with National Association of State and Territorial AIDS Directors to release a brief called Native Gay Men and Two Spirit People: HIV/AIDS and Viral Hepatitis Programs and Services, which discusses key issues that impact risks for HIV and STDs among Native gay men and Two Spirit people, as well as presents ways in which local health departments can effectively collaborate with Tribal communities to address these risks.
So, what can we do to help?
Aside from getting tested (which Caring Communities offers
for free! It’s also confidential!), you can educate yourself and others.
Knowing the facts and being able to provide this valuable information is the first
step toward creating an HIV-free generation for all races and ethnicities. If
you are a member of the Native community and require more specific healthcare
assistance, you can visit your local Indian Health Service Tribal or Urban
facility or access resources online through Indian Health Service.