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Say No to 'Other'

March 14, 2017

National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day logo

March 20 is National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. On this day, NMAC asks everyone to say no to the epidemiological category "other". We have all seen HIV reports that list certain communities affected by the epidemic as "others". Mostly this is used to describe American Indians, Alaska Natives, Asians, and Pacific Islanders. This generic label masks the stories, struggles, and resilience of these communities. Behind the numbers are people, families, culture and traditions. American Indian and Alaska Native communities deserve the right, just like every other community, to be named. March 20th is National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and we urge everyone to remove the "other" label from not only HIV reports, but all reports.

It is also very important how numbers are presented. Look at the following graph of new HIV infections data from 2010 to 2015:

New HIV Infections

This graph compares the numbers of new infections between American Indians/Alaska Natives and Whites from 2010 to 2015. This data could lead the reader to believe that the HIV epidemic is raging in White communities and there are very few cases in Native communities. Now look at the same data when it is presented differently:

Rates of New HIV Infections

If we look at the rates per 100,000 people, using the same data set as above, we get a different picture about the ongoing HIV epidemic in the two communities. According to CDC, every year from 2010 to 2015, new HIV infection rates per 100,000 of population were higher in American Indian/Alaska Natives than Whites. Yet that information frequently gets lost in translation.

Last year NMAC mistakenly used the classification "other" on a USCA form. It was not on purpose nor was it meant as a sign of disrespect. As soon as it was pointed out, we changed the application; however, that was not enough. NMAC did an internal review and several changes were implemented:

  • 2017 USCA will have a Native Pathway of workshops,
  • A Native family will be featured at the Opening Family Reunion Plenary,
  • NMAC staff did a cultural sensitivity training,
  • Conference calls with community leaders, and
  • Offers to use e-newsletters and other NMAC communication vehicles for the Native communities to get their messages to NMAC's constituents.

None of us is perfect. Staff understands that we will make mistakes; what is important is how we clean up our messes. Stand with NMAC and say "no" to others. Everyone deserves the right to self-determination that includes your ethnicity.

Related Stories

HIV/AIDS Among American Indians and Alaska Natives
Native Americans & HIV/AIDS

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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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