National Native HIV/AIDs Awareness National Native HIV/AIDs Awareness
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

March 20, 2012 is National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. This national observance is an opportunity for Native people across the United States to learn about HIV/AIDS, encourage HIV testing, and get involved in HIV prevention.

On March 20, we recognize the mounting impact of HIV/AIDS on American Indians (AIs), Alaska Natives (ANs) and Native Hawaiians (NHs). This 6th national observance is our opportunity to collectively, and on a national scale, raise awareness of the risks of HIV to Native people, to help communities understand the dynamics contributing to those risks, and to encourage individuals to get tested for HIV.

CDC recommends that adults and adolescents get tested for HIV as least once as a routine part of medical care. People at increased risk should get an HIV test at least every year. Women should get an HIV test each time they are pregnant.

HIV in Native Communities

The HIV epidemic is a serious health threat to Native communities. Although AIs and ANs represent 1% of the U.S. population, they have historically suffered high rates of health disparities, including HIV/AIDS. Overall, approximately 20% of HIV-infected Americans do not know they are infected, while among AIs and ANs this figure is closer to 25%. AIs and ANs diagnosed with HIV infection or AIDS die sooner after their diagnosis than members of any other ethnic or racial group, suggesting that they may be diagnosed late in the course of their infection. This underscores the importance of educating AIs and ANs on the facts about HIV prevention and increasing access to basic health care services.

Lack of access to basic health care services, stigma associated with gay relationships and HIV, barriers to effective mental health care, and high rates of substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, and poverty all increase the risk of HIV in Native communities and create obstacles to HIV prevention and treatment.

The reasons Native people are burdened by HIV are not directly related to race or ethnicity but rather to some of the challenges faced by many communities across the country. To address this epidemic, we must confront the factors that continue to place Native people at risk of contracting HIV, including circumstances in which people are born, grow up, live, work, and age, as well as the systems put in place to deal with illness

Through partnerships with community-based organizations, native communities are working to increase effective HIV/AIDS prevention activities and encourage early detection through testing. By using culturally competent HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs, we can limit the spread of this devastating disease in Native communities.

What Can You Do? Get tested for HIV. To find a testing site center near you, text your ZIP Code to KNOW IT (566948). Visit the Act Against AIDS website to get the facts about HIV/AIDS, including Learning the risk factors for acquiring HIV. Avoiding high-risk behaviors. Practicing safer methods to prevent HIV infection. Talk about HIV prevention with family, friends, and colleagues. Provide support to people living with HIV/AIDS. Get involved with or host an event for National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in your community.