PUBLISHED: 3:53 PM on Wednesday, March 19, 2008
SEARHC honors National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
SITKA - The second National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day takes place on Thursday, March 20, and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) would like to honor those Alaska Natives, American Indians and Native Hawai'ians who have been affected by HIV/AIDS. On March 20, an information table about the impact of HIV/AIDS on Alaska Natives will be set up in the lobby of SEARHC Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka.

HIV/AIDS infection rates are growing in Native communities at a higher rate than for other ethnic groups in the United States, and Natives with HIV/AIDS tend to be younger than non-Natives with HIV/AIDS. In Alaska, there have been 250 Natives diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, which is 22 percent of the 1,145 total cases from the state's first diagnosis in 1982 to Dec. 31, 2006. Of particular concern is the growing number of females with HIV/AIDS, almost a third of all new cases of HIV/AIDS are in women compared to less than 10 percent in the 1980s.

"HIV is affecting thousands of American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawai'ians. National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day - the beginning of spring - is an opportunity to talk about HIV and the impact it's having on our community," said Robert McSwain, Acting Director of the Indian Health Service. "Many people with HIV are not aware of their status, so they may be infecting others, and not accessing treatment which could help them. Together we can help our Native communities, by talking about HIV, attending community events, and encouraging HIV testing. Please, join me and our friends, family members and partners in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Protect our future. Protect our people. Celebrate life."

HIV/AIDS can be spread in several ways, with the highest risks being for male homosexual contact, heterosexual contact and through intravenous drug use and shared needle use. Less common ways HIV/AIDS can be transmitted are through transfusions or by an infected mother to her fetus.

Alaska Natives, American Indians and Native Hawai'ians can take action in the fight against HIV/AIDS by getting tested for HIV/AIDS, practice safe sex methods to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, avoid engaging in high-risk behaviors, talk about HIV/AIDS prevention with your family and friends, provide support to people living with HIV/AIDS, and get involved with or host an event for National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in your community.

For more information about HIV/AIDS prevention and testing, contact Barbara Teepe, RN, at 966-8318 or by e-mail at For more information about National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, go to or