March 20th marks both the first day of Spring and National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 1 in 5 American Indians and Alaska Natives who were living with HIV in 2012 were unaware of their HIV positive status.
HIV is a public health issue among American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN). Compared with other racial/ethnic groups, AI/AN ranked fifth in estimated rates of new HIV diagnoses in 2014.
The increase of reported AIDS cases among Native people is not surprising given the fact that Native people are considered high risk for contracting the HIV infection. Native people are at danger for HIV not because of their race but because of behaviors, such as high rates of alcohol and substance abuse, in combination with biological, economic, and social co-factors. The presence of co-factors varies from Native community to Native community and, many, if not all co-factors exist in every area.
Native health agencies, organizations, and programs have a continuing effort to address HIV/AIDS needs and concerns. Native people are creative in their collaborative efforts in order to be effective, but must increase these efforts. This collaboration among each other and other health agencies is critical in sharing information and programming. When collaboration is combined with strong connections, it strengthens Native efforts to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Remember the Health Power motto: Knowledge + Action = Power!