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March 20th is National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness DayExternal (NNHAAD), a time to raise awareness about the presence of HIV and AIDS in our Native communities, which include American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians (collectively referred to as Native people).

Members of the Native Community chose to observe NNHAAD on the day of the Spring Equinox because, for many, it represents a time of equality, balance, and new beginnings; a celebration of life for all people.

NNHAAD, now in its 13th year, encourages Native communities across the United States and territorial areas to get educated, get tested, and get involved in HIV prevention and treatment.

HIV in Native Communities in the United States

Of the 38,739 HIV diagnoses in the United States in 2017, Cdc-pdf[379 KB] 1% (212) were among American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations. Of those diagnoses, 79% (167) were among men and 21% (45) were among women. Of the 167 HIV diagnoses among AI/AN men, most (75%, 125) were among gay and bisexual men. Of the 45 diagnoses among AI/AN women, 69% were attributed to heterosexual contact. From 2010 to 2016, the number of new HIV diagnoses increased 46% (from 157 to 230) among AI/AN overall and 57% (from 104 to 163) among AI/AN gay and bisexual men.

With more than 570 federally recognized AI/AN tribes who collectively speak more than 170 languages, and who vary in culture, beliefs, and practices, it is vital that prevention programs are aware of this diversity. Other factors—such as socioeconomic issues, stigma associated with HIV and gay or bisexual relationships, and high rates of STDs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea—can hinder HIV prevention and treatment.

Under the U.S. government-proposed HIV elimination initiativeExternal, there is much hope that the HIV epidemic can be ended in the United States in the next decade. With today’s powerful tools, we know how to prevent HIV and to help people with HIV stay healthy. For people with HIV, starting treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis is essential. HIV medicine lowers the amount of virus (viral load) in the body, and taking it every day can make the viral load undetectable. If a person with HIV stays undetectable, they can stay healthy for many years, and there is effectively no risk of transmitting HIV through sex to an HIV-negative partner. Having an undetectable viral load also substantially reduces the risk of mothers transmitting HIV to their babies.

What Can You Do?

Talk about it. Learn the facts about HIV, and share this information with your family, friends, and community. The CDC campaign Let’s Stop HIV Together, which is a part of Act Against AIDS, has many resources to combat HIV stigma.

Get Tested. Doing It is a national HIV testing and prevention campaign intended to motivate all adults to get tested for HIV and know their status. Knowing your HIV status gives you the control to keep you and your partner healthy. CDC recommends that everyone aged 13 to 64 get tested for HIV at least once and those at high risk get tested at least once a year.

To find a testing site near you, visit Get Tested, text your ZIP code to KNOWIT (566948), or call 1-800-CDC-INFO. You can also use a home testing kit, available in drugstores or online.

Protect yourself and your partner. If you are sexually active and/or use injection drugs, tools are available to prevent HIV:

  • Use condoms the right way every time you have sex. Learn the right way to use a male condom or a female condom.
  • If you are HIV-negative but at high risk for HIV, take daily medicine to prevent HIV, called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
  • Talk to your doctor about post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) if you think you have been exposed to HIV in the last 72 hours and are not on PrEP.
  • Never share needles or other equipment to inject drugs (works).
  • Abstinence (not having sex) and not sharing needles or works are 100% effective ways to prevent HIV.

The following actions can also help lower your risk of getting HIV:

  • Limiting your number of sex partners.
  • Getting tested and treated for other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Choosing activities with little to no risk, like oral sex.

You can learn more about how to protect yourself and your partners and get information tailored to meet your needs from CDC’s HIV Risk Reduction Tool (BETA).



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