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Native Sun News: A call for more HIV testing in Indian Country





The following story was written and reported by Brandon Ecoffey, Native Sun News Managing Editor. All content © Native Sun News.

A call for more AIDS testing in Indian Country
By Brandon Ecoffey
Native Sun News Managing Editor

RAPID CITY — In recognition of the 8th annual National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, organizers are calling for increased testing for the disease in Indian communities across the country.

National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NNHAAD), observed annually on the spring equinox, is a national community mobilization effort designed to encourage American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians across the United States and Territorial Areas to get educated, get tested, and get involved in HIV prevention and treatment

The Center for Disease Control reports that Native Hawaiians/other Pacific Islanders and American Indians/Alaskan Natives are two of the fastest growing demographics with new cases of the disease. Native Hawaiians rank 3rd and American Indian/Alaskan Natives rank 5th in this regard. Despite the outbreak many in these two communities have never been tested for HIV/AIDS.

“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.

“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.”

The disease that burst on to the National consciousness when NBA superstar Magic Johnson announced that he had contracted the disease on November 7, 1991 has fallen out of the mainstream news cycle despite estimates from the CDC that more than a million people over the age of 13 are living with the disease. Although many professionals feel that the numbers are tainted do to the low rates of testing in many communities.

In 2012 the CDC published multiple recommendations for to be implemented to better track and include opt-out HIV testing, and better racial and ethnic classification for those being tested in order to better identify where the disease is prevalent. With better tracking and classification experts feel that local healthcare professionals would be better equipped to locate those infected and fight the spread of HIV/AIDS.

That National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is a federally recognized awareness day created in 2007 and funded by the CDC. Multiple agencies are involved in the coordination of the event including Colorado State University, the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center, the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board and the Intertribal Council of Arizona.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at staffwriter2@nsweekly.com)