Indian Country Today Media Network (07.17.2013)
The San Carlos Apache Tribe’s (SCAT) council passed a resolution in support of the Public Health and Safety Code to establish HIV/AIDS confidentiality and safeguard the privacy of HIV-infected Native Americans. According to SCAT HIV/AIDS Coalition Chair and Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Anita L. Brock, codifying HIV/AIDS confidentiality supports the public health system and gives the system the authority to address the HIV threat among the San Carlos Apache community. The resolution makes HIV testing optional for SCAT members. Brock stated that the code strengthens the tribe’s public health infrastructure by providing for privacy and continuity of care. The more than 500 tribes in US Indian country also would have the option to pass the resolution.
CDC reported in 2011 that HIV incidence rates among American Indians and Alaska Natives were higher than HIV rates for whites and Asians but lower than new infection rates among blacks, Hispanics, and Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders. However, survival rates for HIV-infected Alaska Natives/American Indians were the worst of any race or ethnicity.
Native American and HIV/AIDS Activist Isadore Boni asserted that HIV incidence among Native Americans was much higher than CDC estimates because many tribe members leave the reservation and migrate to urban areas for HIV testing and treatment. He stated that SCAT health department decision makers had been unaware of the HIV prevalence among tribe members and that San Carlos health services did not maintain confidentiality of HIV-infected persons. Boni tested positive for HIV and hepatitis C in 2002 and advocated for the passage of the privacy rules and regulations on the reservation. Because Boni could not access HIV services on the reservation, he moved to Phoenix for treatment.