July 16, 2012
The Indian Health Board of Billings is launching two new health promotion efforts. The IHB medical clinic is offering free rapid HIV tests on a walk-in basis; it also is kicking off a campaign to prevent teen pregnancy and help pregnant Native American teens and their babies.
The majority of patients who visit the Billings clinic are Native American, executive director Marjorie Bear Don't Walk said. The clientele is about one-third Crow, one-fourth Cheyenne, and includes other tribe members from Montana, Wyoming, and North and South Dakota. Last year it saw nearly 6,000 people, according to Robert IronMaker Jr., the clinic's health site manager and grant writer.
The IHB HIV testing effort is part of a national pilot program launched by CDC in 24 cities and rural communities. The IHB is the only urban Indian clinic to be part of the pilot project, IronMaker said.
The teen pregnancy program was prompted by IronMaker learning that Yellowstone County has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in Montana. "And of that, 40 percent of the babies born to moms between the ages of 15 and 17 are American Indian," he said. The IHB outreach received a $60,000 grant from the Montana Department of Health and Human Services' Pregnancy Assistance fund.
The program will target Native American teens who are pregnant or parents and include education and care, both pre- and post-natal, IronMaker said. Young fathers will be encouraged to participate as well.