ST. PAUL (March 17, 2014) — National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NNHAAD) will be observed in Minnesota and across the nation on Thursday, March 20.
The purpose of the day is to raise awareness about the impact that HIV/AIDS has had on American Indians and Alaska Natives and to honor those who are living with or have died of the disease.
“We want to use this observance to let our American Indian communities know that HIV/AIDS is still here and it remains a serious health threat,” said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health. “HIV/AIDS continues to infect American Indians in the United States, including Minnesota.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), native communities currently have the fifth highest rate of new HIV infections in the U.S. when compared to other population groups. Through 2010, 3,194 American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) have been diagnosed with HIV and 1,696 with AIDS. An estimated 4,890 AI/AN are living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S.
Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) data shows that 232 cases of HIV infection have been reported among American Indians since the beginning of the epidemic and 102 of them have died in the state. As of 2012, there are 132 American Indians living with HIV in Minnesota. Seventy-five of the living cases are males and 57 cases are females.
“American Indians have historically experienced higher rates of diseases, including HIV/AIDS,” said Ehlinger. Factors contributing to higher disease occurrence and lower life expectancy among American Indians include disproportionate rates of poverty, discrimination in the delivery of health services, limited access to quality health education, cultural differences and social stigma.
“We know we can lower HIV infection rates by assuring prevention, testing and treatment services are available for communities that are dealing with a number of socioeconomic disadvantages,” said Ehlinger. “One of the first steps is to get connected with some of the culturally specific programs and events in the American Indian community.”
For this year’s NNHAAD observance, the Indigenous Peoples Task Force will provide free HIV testing for walk-ins at two locations and dates: Wednesday, March 19, 3 – 4 p.m., at All Nations Indian Church, 1515 East 23rd Street, Minneapolis; and, Thursday, March 20, 3 – 6 p.m., at AICHO, 202 West 2nd Street, Duluth. The Aliveness Project will provide a free HIV testing event for the observance, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Thursday, March 20 at their office, 3808 Nicollet Avenue South, Minneapolis.
The STD and HIV Section and the Office of Minority and Multicultural Health at MDH currently fund 27 community-based programs aimed at preventing the spread of HIV and/or providing testing in adults and young people of all races who are at risk of acquiring the infection.
Health officials noted that the most effective means of stopping the spread is to know your HIV status, avoid or delay sexual activity, decrease the number of sexual partners, always use latex condoms during sex, avoid sharing of needles or equipment to tattoo, body pierce or inject drugs, and get into and stay in care if infected.
For more information on National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day 2014, visit www.nnhaad.org, and for more information about Minnesota’s observance activities, visit www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/hiv/worldaidsday/nnhaad/index.html.
Information about HIV is also available from the Minnesota AIDS Project (MAP) AIDSLine, 612-373-2437, 1-800-248-2437. MAP AIDSLine offers statewide information and referral services, including prevention education, HIV risk assessments, HIV testing and referrals to HIV testing sites, as well as community resources and prevention programs that serve American Indians www.mnaidsproject.org.
The MDH HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report-2012, which includes data specific for American Indians, can be found on the MDH website at www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/hiv/hivstatistics.html.
In a proclamation marking this year’s observance, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton called for all Minnesotans to strongly support National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and to get involved with initiatives to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in the American Indian communities. To see a copy of the proclamation, visit the MDH website at www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/hiv/worldaidsday/nnhaad/index.html.
Community Events– Free and Open to the Public
• Indigenous Peoples Task Force “Honor Yourself, Get Tested” NNHAAD Event, 3 – 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at All Nations Church, 1515 East 23rd Street, Minneapolis, MN 55404
• The Aliveness Project NNHAAD HIV Testing Day Event, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Thursday, March 20, 2014 at The Aliveness Project, 3808 Nicollet Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55407
• Indigenous Peoples Task Force “Honor Yourself, Get Tested” NNHAAD Event, 3 – 6 p.m., Thursday, March 20, 2014 at AICHO, 202 West 2nd Street, Duluth, MN 55802