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Culturally Adapted HIV/AIDS Education, Treatment Needed for North American Native Peoples, Conference Attendees Say

May 4, 2006

Native peoples living in North America need to be provided with "culturally sensitive" models for HIV/AIDS treatment and educated with current information about the epidemic, attendees at the opening of a conference in Anchorage, Alaska, on Wednesday said, the AP/Billings Gazette reports. More than 1,000 people are attending the symposium, titled "Embracing Our Traditions, Values and Teachings: Native Peoples of North America HIV/AIDS Conference," including representatives from more than 600 American Indian and Alaskan Native nations, as well as health care workers, researchers and leaders from Canada, New Zealand and more than 40 states. "HIV/AIDS is rapidly becoming a terrible predator in Native communities, and most of these communities are unprepared to protect themselves," Jack Whitescarver, director of NIH's Office of AIDS Research, said during his keynote speech. CDC figures indicate that American Indians and Alaska Natives account for less than 1% of new HIV cases in the U.S., but some attendees at the conference said that new cases are underreported (Pemberton, AP/Billings Gazette, 5/3). HIV incidence among Alaska Natives and American Indians in 2004 was 7.9 cases per 100,000 people, compared with 6.0 cases per 100,000 people among whites, according to CDC (Potempa, Anchorage Daily News, 5/2). Some researchers said that high sexually transmitted infection and substance use rates among Native peoples increase their risk of contracting HIV (Reed, KTVA TV, 5/2). Attendees at the conference, which ends on Saturday, plan to discuss topics including education and prevention, stigma, spiritual issues, research and mental health issues, according to Seh Welch, tribal liaison for OAR (Anchorage Daily News, 5/2).

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