by Lisa Neel, IHS National HIV/AIDS Program Coordinator
We know what it takes to prevent HIV infections and improve the lives of people living with HIV.
For World AIDS Day this year, the theme is The Time to Act is Now. The Indian Health Service is acting by reaching the right people, in the right places, with the right practices, as recommended by the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. You can read more about IHS successes and activities in our IHS HIV/AIDS Program materials.
The Right People:
Programs that reach younger people are especially important in American Indian and Alaska Native communities, since more than half of the estimated new HIV diagnoses among American Indian and Alaska Native persons are among people under the age of 35.
The perspectives of men who have sex with men are also increasingly important in our prevention work. Most new HIV diagnoses among American Indian and Alaska Native men are attributed to male-to-male sexual contact.
Access IHS materials to promote HIV testing in your facility or community. Everyone should know their status.
The Right Places:
There is great variation throughout American Indian and Alaska Native communities, including different reasons for new HIV diagnoses, perceived or actual access to care for people living with HIV, and outcomes of persons living with HIV. Use this atlas from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to start understanding the burden of HIV/AIDS where you live.
The Right Practices:
The best prevention and engagement approaches come from our own communities. Work with your community to find the best ways to:
- Offer widespread HIV testing.
- Effectively link people who need it to care.
- Obtain access to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for those who want it.
- Support people living with HIV.
For more information and ideas, visit AIDS.gov . There is no better time than World AIDS Day to recommit ourselves to achieving an AIDS-free generation.
Ms. Neel, a member of the Cherokee Nation, manages the IHS National HIV/AIDS Program. This public health program addresses infectious disease needs in partnership with Native communities throughout the United States.