AIDS United joins organizations around the country marking National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and shining a spotlight on the impact of the HIV epidemic in Native American communities. March 20 was chosen for this observance to coincide with the Spring Equinox, which represents “a time of equality, balance and new beginnings; a celebration of life for all people.”
Access to quality, affirming HIV care that is free of stigma is critical for all communities, but especially for Native communities for whom culturally responsive care can look quite different. There are more than 570 federally recognized tribes in the United States, each with their own languages, traditions and practices.
According to the Indian Health Service, as many as 26% of American Indian and Alaska Native people living with HIV don’t know their status. Furthermore, per data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 57% of Native Americans living with HIV do not stay in care.
Last year, AIDS United highlighted the critical work of two Syringe Access Fund grantees: Bad River and Red Cliff Bands of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians. Both operate syringe services programs in Wisconsin, meeting the needs of those impacted by both the opioid and HIV epidemics, two of the most pressing public health challenges of our time.
Used syringes result in somewhere between 3,000-5,000 new cases of HIV and approximately 10,000 new cases of hepatitis C in the United States each year. CDC data show injection drug use accounted for 31% and 9% of HIV transmissions among American Indian and Alaska Native women and men, respectively, in 2016.
We must continue to share the stories and voices of our Native American siblings living with HIV and honor their resilience in the fight to end the epidemic.
As we mark National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, tell us how you will join the fight to stop HIV together.