Yesterday, on March 20, the 7th annual National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day—Native people across the U.S. challenged individuals, health providers and government agencies to increase HIV testing in American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities. The push stems from recommendations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“HIV affects our communities, but low HIV testing rates and irregular HIV data collection practices obscure its true impact,” said Pamela Jumper-Thurman, a senior research scientist with Colorado State University’s CA7AE project, in a press release.
According to the CDC, Native Hawaiians/Other Pacific Islanders (NHOPI) and American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) had the third and fourth highest rates of new HIV infections in the nation (CDC, 2009 HIV Surveillance report). Despite this, over 70 percent of NHOPI and almost 60 percent of AI/ANs have never been tested for HIV (National Center for Health Statistics, 2010 National Health Interview Survey).
“We need our community to get tested for HIV but the work can’t stop there,” said Dr. Jumper-Thurman. “We also need public health agencies, local health departments, and community health centers to ensure their data collection practices comply with CDC recommendations.”
In July 2012, the CDC published recommendations on HIV surveillance practices in AI/AN communities. Key recommendations included promoting routine, opt-out HIV testing and improving race/ethnicity classification of AI/ANs in HIV surveillance data. Local health departments and government agencies use HIV epidemiological data including HIV prevalence, or the estimated number of people living with HIV, to identify the populations most affected by the epidemic in their areas. This data, however, fails to paint a full picture of the disease in smaller populations, like AI/AN/NHOPI, unlikely to access HIV treatment or testing services. To view the full CDC HIV Surveillance
Recommendations, go to http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/strategy/pdf/aaian-fact-sheet.pdf.
About National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
For more information about National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NNHAAD), visit www.nnhaad.org and read the Indian Country Today Media Network article Effecting Change for Future Generations on National Native American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.