AIDS Awareness Day focuses on American Indians, those from Alaska, HawaiiThe annual National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NNHAAD) will be observed for the sixth time in Minnesota and across the nation on Tuesday, March 20.
The annual National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NNHAAD) will be observed for the sixth time in Minnesota and across the nation on Tuesday, March 20. The goal of the day is to raise awareness about the impact that HIV/AIDS has had on American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians and the need to work together to prevent its spread and help those who are living with HIV.
HIV incidence has continued to increase among Native communities over the past decade; they currently have the fourth highest rate of new HIV infections in the U.S., according to recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Through 2009, 3,702 American Indians have been diagnosed with AIDS and an estimated 2,387 are living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S.
"In Minnesota, 217 cases of HIV infection have been reported among American Indians since the beginning of the epidemic and, unfortunately, 96 of them have died," said Peter Carr, manager of the STD and HIV Section, Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). "As of 2010, there are 118 American Indians living with HIV in Minnesota. Sixty-seven of these cases are males and 51 cases are females."
American Indians have historically experienced higher rates of diseases, including HIV/AIDS, than any other racial/ethnic group. Factors contributing to higher disease occurrence and lower life expectancy among American Indians include disproportionate rates of poverty, discrimination in the delivery of health services, limited access to quality health education, cultural differences and social stigma.
"We need to use this day to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, fight the stigma and engage our American Indian communities in lowering infection rates through prevention, early detection and getting into care if infected," said Carr. "New studies show that HIV transmission rates can be reduced by 96 percent when infected persons get into treatment and remain in care."
Health officials noted that treatment lowers the amount of HIV in blood of those who are infected and can prevent transmission. Other ways to prevent the spread of HIV include delaying the start of sexual activity, limiting the number of sexual partners, knowing your HIV status and that of your partners through testing, practicing safer sex at all times, and not sharing needles for drug use, piercing or tattooing.
"One of the first steps to reduce the spread of HIV is to get tested," said Carr. "And, one of the ways to get tested is to go to your health care provider or get connected with some of the programs and events our department funds."
The STD and HIV Section and the Office of Minority and Multicultural Health at MDH currently fund 39 community-based programs aimed at preventing the spread of HIV in adults and young people of all races who are at risk of acquiring the infection. One of these programs includes the Indigenous Peoples Task Force based in Minneapolis that has been one of the key leaders in reaching American Indian populations in Minnesota with HIV prevention efforts over the past 20 years.
For this year's NNHAAD observance, the Indigenous Peoples Task Force will team up with the Indian Health Board to provide free health screenings including HIV testing and glycerin, blood pressure and oxygen level checks for walk-ins. The event will take place on Tuesday, March 20, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. at the All Nations Church, 1515 East 23rd Street, Minneapolis.
In Greater Minnesota, White Earth Tribal Health along with several community partners will host its Second Annual NNHAAD Celebration, 1 - 4:30 p.m., March 20 at the Shooting Star Casino & Event Center, Mahnomen, MN. Presentations, performances, exhibits and free HIV testing will be available throughout the event.
For more information on National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day 2012, visit Colorado State University's Center for Applied Studies in American Ethnicity at http://www.happ.colostate.edu/, Inter Tribal Council of Arizona at http://www.itcaonline.com/ , National Native American AIDS Prevention Center at http://www.nnaapc.org/ or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at http://www.hhs.gov/aidsawarenessdays/days/native/index.html.
Information about HIV is also available from the Minnesota AIDS Project (MAP) AIDSLine, 612-373-2437, 1-800-248-2437. MAP AIDSLine offers statewide information and referral services, including prevention education, HIV risk assessments, HIV testing and referrals to HIV testing sites, as well as community resources and prevention programs that serve American Indians.
The MDH HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report-2010, which includes data specific for American Indians, can be found on the MDH website at: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/hiv/hivstatistics.html. The MDH website also provides information, fact sheets and a calendar of local activities for the observance at: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/hiv/worldaidsday/nnhaad/index.html.