National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

The beginning of Spring also brings with it National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NNHAAD) on March 20. In the United States, the Native communities include American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians, which are collectively referred to as Native people.[1]

NNHAAD began in 2007 by a collaboration of agencies known as the National Native Capacity Building Assistance Network. The agencies, funded by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), worked together to build assistance to Native organizations, tribes, state health departments, and any other organization that serves Native populations.[2]

The general goal of NNHAAD is to promote HIV education, testing, prevention, and treatment in Native communities. The day is also a time to remember those who have passed, and those who are infected and affected by HIV.[3] The 2020 theme is “Resiliency + Action: Ending the HIV Epidemic in Native Communities,”[4] a call to stay strong, and take action in local communities to help fight stigma and promote testing and treatment.

In 2017, the CDC found that overall diagnosed HIV infections among American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) were proportional to their population, but that HIV diagnoses have increased over time. From 2010 to 2016, the number of yearly HIV diagnoses increased from 157 to 230, a 46% increase. [5]

The CDC also acknowledges many of the barriers and challenges to HIV prevention in the Native population. There are over 560 federally recognized AI/AN tribes with over 170 languages spoken, and racial misidentification of AI/AN individuals may lead to undercounting, and therefore underfunding of those targeted services. There are also socioeconomic barriers such as poverty and low rates of health insurance coverage which would make getting and staying on medications difficult.

Currently, the CDC is pursuing a high-impact prevention approach to improve HIV prevention methods and HIV data collection among AI/AN. The best way you can help is to educate yourself and others. Knowing the facts and being able to provide this valuable information is the first step toward creating an HIV-free generation for all races and ethnicities. If you are a member of the Native community and require more specific healthcare assistance, you can visit your local Indian Health Service Tribal or Urban facility or access resources online through Indian Health Service.