AIDS And Native Americans
Native infection rates are now 1.5 times the rate for White populations and climbing. More than 30 new cases were identified on the Navajo Reservation last year, including the first documented cases of transmission on the “rez”.
Judy Nichols, a senior enterprise reporter for The Arizona Republic, has done a class-A job on two articles that appeared December 29th, 03 which I am editing in three sections because of length and content.
In 2001, former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher called AIDS a “ticking bomb” for Native Americans. ”We separated out the American Indian numbers, which had been looking like a flat line because they were so small compared to the others.”
The AIDS risk for Native Americans had been underestimated because of the lack of testing, reporting and racial misidentification. Now, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is closely monitoring the numbers.
In 1996, there had only been one documented Native American case in Arizona compared with 279 cases among Whites, 27 among Hispanics and 13 among Blacks. By 2001, Arizona ranked third in the number of Native Americans with 219 AIDS cases. California was first with 552, followed by Oklahoma with 275.
Cases for all groups peaked in 1996 then dropped with the introduction of new drug therapy but cases for all groups are on the rise again. Today, Native Americans are infected with AIDS at a rate of nearly 11.7 per 100,000, almost one and a half times the rate for Whites and more than twice the rate of Asians with the highest rates among Blacks and Hispanics as reported to the CDC in Atlanta.
According to Jeanne Bertolli, senior epidemiologist in the Office of Health Disparity in the National Center for HIV. STD and TB Prevention at the CDC, the disease may be even more devastating to Native American populations because it comes on top of other health problems: diabetes, alcoholism, drug abuse, homicide, suicide and accidental death. “Native people are vulnerable.” Bertolli said. “Conditions exist that can allow the spread of the disease including high rates of sexually transmitted infections and illicit drug use” - through sharing contaminated needles.
Twenty-four new HIV cases, including five women, were diagnosed on the Navajo Reservation last year, compared with 15 the year before according to Dr. Jonathan Iralu, chief clinical consultant for infectious disease for the Navajo Area of the Indian Health Service. Almost all the new cases resulted from sexual transmission. Another marker for concern, Iralu stated, is an ongoing syphilis outbreak which is an indicator for high risk behavior and a predictor for an upsurge in HIV cases.
The Navajo Nation is running public service announcements about sexually transmitted diseases, which have prompted many people to come in for testing
Arizona Congressman Jack Jackson, Jr., a Navajo who served on President Clinton’s AIDS Advisory Council has worked for years to combat the spread of the disease among the Native American population. “The Indian Health Service still receives a historic shortfall in funding, and scarce resources used elsewhere for bigger issues like diabetes”, Jackson said. “Under the current administration, much of the funding used to look at HIV in communities of color and the gay community is no longer being distributed.”
Another voice is heard through Dennis Manuelito of the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center in Oakland California. “There is still a stigma for those with AIDS. As a result, many people don’t get tested or reveal their status. So, education and prevention messages must be rewritten for each region where our group goes.”
National Native American AIDS Prevention Center – email@example.com.
436-145h Street, Suite 1020
Oakland, California 94612
Phone – (510) 444-2051
FAX – (510) 444-1593
NNAAPC is a 501(3)3 non-profit corporation governed entirely by Native American Board of Directors. NNAAPC was founded in 1987 as a network of concerned Native people willing to speak publicly on the need for HIV Prevention education by and for Native Americans.
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Next – Racial Misidentification/Prostitution Adds To AIDS Problem.
Bobbie Hart O’Neill