Today, March 20 marks the first day of spring. In many cultures, the spring season is a time of equality, balance, and new beginnings. This year, the first day of spring also marks the 11th year of National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NNHAAD), a day dedicated to promoting awareness of the impact that HIV/AIDS has on Native communities, particularly American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians, in the United States.
Sponsored by a number of partners dedicated to assisting Native organizations, tribes, and state health departments, NNHAAD, is a “national community mobilization effort” dedicated to encouraging American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians throughout the country to get educated on HIV and go for testing. Furthermore, NNHAAD encourages those who are HIV-positive to receive the proper care and treatment needed.
NNHAAD works to show those who are living with HIV that they are not alone and community efforts are needed to improve preventive strategies and promote adherence to treatment. This year, the theme of the Day is “Unity is CommUnity-Stand Strong to Prevent HIV!”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2015, there were 39,513 new HIV diagnoses
; 209 of these were among American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIs/ANs). Of the 209 diagnoses, the majority (or 73%) were men; 26% were women. Of the 152 diagnoses that occurred in men, 120 were among gay and bisexual men. A notable finding is that from 2005 to 2014, the number of these new diagnoses has, overall, increased by 19% in AI/AN. The number of diagnoses among AI/AN gay and bisexual also increased during this time period by 63%.
When it comes to the impact that HIV has on these populations compared with other ethnic groups, the official NNHAAD website
reports that Native Hawaiians/Other Pacific Islanders (NHOPIs) and AIs/Ans “have the 3rd and 4th highest rate of new HIV infections, respectively.” The website also notes that the rate in 2008 was “22.85 per 100,000 persons for NHOPIs and 11.9 per 100,000 for AI/ANs, compared to 73.7 for Black/African Americans, 25.0 for Hispanic/Latinos, 8.2 for Whites, and 7.2 for Asian.”