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Hear Indigenous Voices

March 18, 2016

Hear Indigenous Voices

American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians are the indigenous populations of the United States representing an extensive and robust network of diversity and strength. NMAC affirms their rich cultural legacies for 2016 National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

Villages, tribes, and communities of elders and young people continue to experience resiliency in the face of higher mortality rates than their white counterparts at each stage of the life span. Cultural beliefs and values serve as core interwoven threads to well defined roles, responsibilities, family life, customs, and ceremonies.

Tommy Chesbro

As a Native American who has been living with HIV for over 30 years, I am proud of what our communities have been able to do with often very limited resources. Unfortunately, Native Americans are still becoming infected with and too often dying from complications of HIV at unacceptable rates. On NNAHAAD it is important for us to honor those we have lost and to celebrate our successes in battling this disease. We must also be mindful of the work yet to be done and never be silenced in advocating for more resources to help our people.

-- Tommy Chesbro, Owner of Chesbro Consulting, LLC, and NMAC Board Member

The American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN), as well as the Native Hawaiian population, are disproportionately affected by many of the social and behavioral factors associated with increased risk for HIV infection.1 As such, Tribal leaders have consistently demanded greater coordination and collaboration among federal agencies whose efforts contribute to the health and well-being of American Indian and Alaska Native communities.

Since the beginning of the epidemic through 2008, 3,629 AI/AN have been diagnosed with AIDS. Eight hundred and thirty Native Hawaiians / other Pacific Islanders (NHOP) have been diagnosed with AIDS. Compared to other ethnic groups, Native Hawaiians/other Pacific Islanders and American Indians / Alaska Natives have the 3rd and 4th highest rate of new HIV infections, respectively.2

Hear Indigenous Voices

In response, tribal leaders and various federal agencies developed a blueprint for enhanced coordination. The Draft National Tribal Behavioral Health Agenda3 is a national document that guides behavioral health policy and programs for Native Americans. It includes an overarching, inclusive scope of the behavioral health challenges that Native communities face; key national behavioral health priorities; and proposals for leveraging existing investments that stakeholders are urged to consider.

Cross Cutting Tribal Issues

Native. Tested. Proud.

This national agenda is framed by four cross-cutting tribal issues: youth, culture, identity, and individual self-sufficiency. It also includes the following five foundational elements:

  • Historical and intergenerational trauma
  • National awareness and visibility
  • Social-ecological approach
  • Prevention and recovery support
  • Behavioral health services and systems improvement

March 20 is a celebration of life. Improving the overall well-being of the Native community is our collective duty and responsibility. It is also an opportunity to nurture individual and community level empowerment accented with indigenous teachings and cultural practices. The resiliency factors embedded in Native communities must be continually harmonized for meaningful communal recovery and quality of life in the face of HIV and all social and health inequities.

Jacqueline Coleman, M.Ed., M.S.M., is director of the Leadership Pipeline at NMAC.

March 20: National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day



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This article was provided by National Minority AIDS Council. Visit NMAC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.

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