March 20th was National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. American Indians and Alaska Natives have one of the shortest survival times per population of all ethnic or racial groups with HIV/AIDS due to late testing.

This year’s theme, “Honor our Ancestors, Protect our People, Take the Test,” is focused on the importance of making HIV testing a routine part of a person’s health care.

An estimated 25% of American Indians and Alaskan Natives with HIV/AIDS do not know they are infected. This high rate is often due to cultural diversity and limited access to healthcare, with many American Indians and Alaskan Natives living in rural areas. American Indians and Alaskan Natives also face high rates of poverty, STI’s, high drug and alcohol use and gay stigma.

The Indian Health Service HIV/AIDS program is addressing this problem by supporting and expanding HIV prevention, testing, and treatment activities throughout Indian Country, with IHS, Tribal, and Urban (I/T/U) partners with the goals of:

• Assisting American Indians and Alaskan Natives individuals to become aware of their HIV status.
• Reducing the number of new HIV infections.
• Reducing the risk of transmission by behavioral change, prevention, education and conducting an open discussion about HIV/AIDS.
• Ensuring access to quality health services for those living with HIV/AIDS and those at risk.
• Maximizing resources for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and mitigation.

Find out more at http://www.ihs.gov/hivaids/index.cfm