March 20th Marks National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

March 20th is National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Unfortunately, new HIV infection rates having been increasing in recent years among American Indians and Alaskan Natives. Yet, rates have been decreasing during this time-period for white communities.  Our Native populations are disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic – a fact that is rarely highlighted even by HIV/AIDS-focused organizations. Part of the problem is the “other” designation on medical and epidemiological intake forms…

“Other” is oft the catchall phrase used to identify American Indians, Alaska Natives, Asians, and Pacific Islanders.  The generic label disassociates the stories, struggles, and resilience of these communities.  Behind the “other” are people, families, and rich culture and traditions.  American Indian and Alaska Native communities deserve the right, just like every other community, to be named.

Today on National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we urge everyone to remove the “other” label intake forms, reports, and all other means of demographic grouping. Those of Native populations, we welcome your distinct contextualized voice on the effect of HIV/AIDS in your life. To all others, reach out to your Native friends, neighbors, and colleagues with compassion and empathy – or listen to Native HIV stories and PSAs. HIV/AIDS is an enemy all individuals can rally against.