Conference Focuses on Natives and HIV/AIDS
May 1, 2006
In Anchorage, Alaska, more than 800 people are expected to attend a May 2-6 conference about North American Native communities and HIV/AIDS.
In Native communities, HIV "is not being talked about until it is too late," said Rick Haverkate, a conference organizer, member of the Sault Ste. Marie tribe and Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan's director of health services. Many are only diagnosed with HIV when they develop AIDS, agreed Michael Covone, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium's HIV prevention program manager.
According to CDC, there are 7.7 HIV infections per 100,000 American Indian and Alaska Native women, twice the rate among white women. Among American Indian and Alaska Native men, the rate is 20.8 per 100,000, slightly higher than among white men. Transmission is facilitated by drug and alcohol use and unprotected sex, said Tommy Chesbro, a keynote speaker and vice president of education for Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma.
Problems can be basic, such as how to test in a village, said Covone. "How do you get a nurse to do the testing without everyone knowing it?" he asks. Together with the stigma of being Native, people often feel cut off from the world, Covone said. "There are layers and layers of issues and HIV just becomes another one of them."
The tradition of tolerance for gays and lesbians has waned with Natives' assimilation into white society, Haverkate said, and many gay and lesbian youths now leave the reservation.
Conference attendees will include Alaska Natives and American Indians from more than 600 sovereign nations, physicians, pharmacists, researchers, elders and spiritual leaders from more than 40 U.S. states, Canada and New Zealand.
For more information about "Embracing Our Traditions, Values and Teachings: Native Peoples of North America HIV/AIDS Conference," visit www.embracingourtraditions.org.
04.28.06; Mary Pemberton
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.