Hear Indigenous Voices
March 18, 2016
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.
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
Cross Cutting Tribal Issues
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:
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.
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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