A rather disturbing report just hit my desk that really gave me pause. Therefore, I decided to make it a Wyattevans.com exclusive.
According to Neal Broverman’s article, “Are the Odds Stacked Against Native Americans with HIV,” recently published at Hivplusmag.com, “The most recent studies of HIV among Native Americans living on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico found alarming numbers, with infections up 20 percent from 2011 to 2012.”
That article went on to state, “The results, reported in the New York Times, included another disturbing but little-discussed statistic: Native Americans with HIV and AIDS have lower survival rates than any other racial group.” This affects me deeply because my maternal grandmother was Native American.
Statistics from 1998 to 2005 demonstrate that HIV rates among Native Americans “were slightly higher than but comparable to those of Caucasians, but lower than those of African-Americans and Latinos. The problem is that testing, treatment, and care are not reaching Native Americans the same way they’re reaching other Americans.”
According to Lisa Neel–a program analyst at the HIV Program for the Indian Health Service, the federal government health program for American Indians and Alaska Natives–there are an assortment of reasons why. “Poverty, which limits access to doctors and can put health concerns on the back burner for those struggling to feed themselves, is an all too common problem for Native Americans.”
Neel also says, “That compared with other racial and ethnic groups, American Indians and Alaska Natives have higher poverty rates, have completed fewer years of education, are younger, are less likely to be employed, and have lower rates of health insurance coverage.”
Often, this results into individuals not getting tested; as a result, scores being oblivious that they are in fact HIV-positive. Stats show that at the end of 2009, 18 percent of all Americans infected with HIV weren’t aware of their status, while 25 percent of Native Americans and Alaska Natives living with HIV did not know they had the disease. And of course, this means that some of those infected in these groups not getting needed treatment until their HIV advances to the point that they experience symptoms.
Neel is concerned that “cultural stigma faced by some gay and bisexual Native American men could also be discouraging testing and treatment,” and cites the higher rates of alcohol and drug use among all American Indians and Alaska Natives.
She concludes, “’Although alcohol and substance abuse does not cause HIV infection, it is an associated risk factor because of its ability to reduce inhibitions and impair judgment. Compared with other racial/ethnic groups, AI/AN tend to use alcohol and drugs at a younger age, use them more often, and in higher quantities, and experience more negative consequences from them’.”