March 20, 2015, is National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day . This day is an opportunity for Native people across the United States to learn about HIV and AIDS, encourage HIV counseling and testing in Native communities, and help decrease the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
On March 20, we recognize the impact of HIV and AIDS on American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians (collectively referred to as Native people) through the observance of National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day . This national observance, now in its 9th year, is our opportunity to raise awareness of the risks of HIV to Native people, help communities understand what contributes to those risks, and encourage people to get tested for HIV.
Overall, approximately 14% of the 1.2 million Americans with HIV do not know they are infected. Among American Indian/Alaska Natives this figure is 19%, and among Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, the figure is 25%.1 CDC recommends that all adults and adolescents get tested for HIV at least once as a routine part of medical care, while those at increased risk should get an HIV test at least every year. Sexually active gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) might benefit from HIV testing every 3 to 6 months. Women should get an HIV test each time they are pregnant.
HIV in Native Communities in the United States
HIV is a serious public health concern for Native people. Specific HIV prevention challenges, including poverty, culturally based stigma against MSM, and high rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STD), relative to whites and Hispanics/Latinos,* contribute to the challenges. Stigma associated with gay relationships and HIV, barriers to mental health care, and high rates of alcohol and drug abuse, STDs, and poverty all increase the risk of HIV in Native communities and create obstacles to HIV prevention and treatment. Native communities are working to overcome these barriers by increasing HIV/AIDS awareness, encouraging HIV testing, and promoting entry into medical care. CDC is working with communities to share stories, build awareness, and reduce the toll of HIV.
The video of “Sharon’s Story” is part of the CDC HIV Treatment Works campaign. A member of the Penobscot Nation, Sharon has been living with HIV since 2003 and she looks to give a voice to those with HIV in her community. “I started taking HIV meds 2 weeks after I was diagnosed. Since then, my doctor and I have become a great team…My viral load is undetectable and I feel good. Now, as an HIV educator and public speaker, I encourage others to get in care and on treatment as soon as possible. I’m living proof that it works.”
Two other videos featuring Native participants—“Shana’s Story” and “Tommy’s Story” —are included in a national HIV/AIDS awareness and anti-stigma campaign, Let’s Stop HIV Together. This campaign shows HIV-positive individuals alongside someone important in their lives to demonstrate how HIV affects people from all walks of life.
Through partnerships with community-based organizations, Native communities are coming together 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?
- Visit the CDC HIV/AIDS website to learn:
- The risk factors for getting HIV
- High-risk behaviors
- How to practice safer methods to prevent HIV infection
- Watch the Indian Health Service video about HIV Testing
- Get tested for HIV. To find a testing site near you, call 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636), go to GetTested , or text your ZIP code to KNOW IT (566948). Home testing kits are available online or at a pharmacy. You may also find a testing location by visiting your local IHS Tribal or Urban facility, or through Indian Health Service .
- Talk about HIV prevention with family, friends, and colleagues
- Provide support to people living with HIV/AIDS
* Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Monitoring selected national HIV prevention and care objectives by using surveillance data—United States and six dependent areas—2012. HIV Surveillance Supplemental Report 2014; 19 (No. 3)[1.78 MB].