March 20th is National Native HIV and Aids Awareness day. On this day, we recognize the disproportionate impact that HIV and AIDS has had on American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians.
Overall approximately 14% of the 1.2 million Americans with HIV do not know they are in infected. For American Indian/Alaskan Native populations this figure jumps to 19% and among Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders this figure is even greater at 25%. Specific HIV prevention and treatment barriers include: high rates of poverty, cultural stigma against MSM, high rates of sexually transmitted diseases, high rates of alcohol and drug abuse, and stigma associated with same-sex relationships and HIV. As a result, American Indian/Alaskan Natives have the 3rd and 4th highest rates of new HIV infections as well as the shortest overall survival time for individuals diagnosed with AIDS.
Although the data for these populations paints a bleak picture, what we do know is that with successful and consistent treatment, an individual can live a healthy, long, vibrant life.
For more information about National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, including prevention resources and fact sheets, visit http://www.nnhaad.org.