Indian Country Today (03.21.13)
Aids Weekly Plus
On March 20, the Seventh National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, Native people in the United States issued a challenge to health providers, government agencies, and individuals to increase testing in American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities. According to CDC data, Native Hawaiians/Other Pacific Islanders (NOPI) and American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) had the third and fourth highest rates of new HIV infections in the nation. However, more than 70 percent of NHOPIs and approximately 60 percent of AI/ANs have never been tested for HIV.
Dr. Pamela Jumper-Thurman, a senior research scientist with Colorado State University’s CA7AE project, stated that HIV affects native communities, but low HIV testing rates and irregular collection procedures conceal the disease’s true impact. Jumper-Thurman emphasized that, in addition to being tested for HIV, the community needs public health agencies, local health departments, and community health centers to make sure the data collection conforms to CDC recommendations.
In July 2012, CDC published recommendations on HIV surveillance in AI/AN communities, which included promoting routine, opt-out HIV testing and improving race/ethnicity classification of AI/ANs in HIV surveillance data. At present, the data that health departments and government agencies use do not give a complete representation of the disease in smaller populations like AI/AN/NHOPI, who most likely do not receive HIV treatment or testing.