Indian Country warned of AIDS threat
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NOVEMBER 16, 2000

Already dealing with a number of health risks in their communities, tribal leaders on Wednesday were warned of a new threat to Indian Country: HIV/AIDS.

"When you combine the increasing case numbers with other health factors in Native communities, HIV/AIDS poses an explosive health threat," said Eric Goosby, Director of the Surgeon General's Office of HIV/AIDS Policy. Goosby spoke at the annual conference of the National Congress of American Indians in St. Paul, Minnesota, yesterday.

AIDS, or acquired imunodeficiency syndrome, itself is not a disease, but a diagnosis made when a person develops what are called AIDS indicator illnesses. AIDS is caused by HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, which is transmitted through blood or sexual contact.

According to the Indian Health Service (IHS), almost 2,700 Native Americans are currently living with AIDS, the overwhelming majority being men. About 120 American Indians and Alaska Natives are infected with HIV per year, reports the IHS.

Although the number represents less than 1 percent of the total AIDS cases in the United States, both Goosby and the Surgeon General, David Satcher, said the problem in Indian Country is growing. Additionally, the lack of accurate tracking of AIDS cases in American Indian and Alaska Native communities is masking the problem, said Satcher.

The population facing the most risk from AIDS are homosexual men, followed by intravenous drug users. But the Centers for Disease Control points out that women are facing an increasing threat of AIDS, primarily through heterosexual sex.

And like with many other health risks, such as diabetes, Native Americans often face them at disproportionate rates. Substance abuse, high rates of sexually transmitted disease, and alcoholism are seen as factors which increase the risk if HIV transmission.

Relevant Links:
AIDS FAQ, Centers for Disease Control -
AIDS Programs, Indian Health Service -
AIDS Resources, Indian Health Service -
Minority risk to AIDS, Centers for Disease Control -
National Native American AIDS Prevention Center -
The Office of HIV/AIDS Policy -