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Statement By Charles W. Grim, D.D.S., M.H.S.A., Assistant Surgeon General Director, Indian Health Service Regarding the First National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

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2007-03-15 05:26:14     
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

March 21, 2007 marks the first National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. On this groundbreaking day, we acknowledge all those working to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Native communities selected March 21st to commemorate National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day because it marks the start of spring, a time of renewal. Now is the time for change. More than a million Americans are living with HIV and at least 40,000 new infections occur every year. American Indians and Alaska Natives represent approximately 1 percent of the U.S. population and account for the third highest rate of AIDS diagnoses of all races in the United States.

Stigma, silence, and behavior are fueling this epidemic. Although these are sensitive issues, we must begin to talk openly and honestly about HIV/AIDS in our communities. I encourage everyone to engage in discussion with family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors about HIV/AIDS within the context of our culture. Every time we discuss HIV, we lessen the fear, decrease the stigma, and eliminate the silence. We then have the opportunity to encourage others to protect themselves, know their status, and promote a healthier community.

HIV screening is another important tool we have in the fight against HIV. Nearly one in four people who have HIV in the United States do not know they are infected with it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released new HIV testing recommendations that call for routine voluntary screening in health care settings for every person between the ages of 13 and 64. When people know their status, they can change risk behaviors, benefit from earlier access to life-extending treatment, and reduce transmission. In honor of National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, I encourage all Native people to be screened for HIV and to know their status.

In observance of the first National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, events such as free HIV/AIDS screening, Talking Circles, Pow Wows, walks, town hall meetings, and memorial services will be held throughout the country. It is necessary that each and every one of us play a role as an advocate, champion, facilitator, or provider of prevention, education, and care. I encourage all Native leaders and community members to take part in these activities and in doing so, create awareness around this important day.

The theme of this year's National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is "A Celebration of Life . . . Protecting Our Future, Protecting Our People!" On this important day, we must not only celebrate our lives but also think about our future generations. HIV prevention, screening, and treatment save lives.

To listen to Dr. Grim's public service announcements about the first National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, please visit: http://www.omhrc.gov/hivaidsobservances/nnaad/materials.html

To locate a testing site near you, please visit http://www.hivtest.org.

For more information on National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, please visit http://www.aids.gov.

Charles W. Grim, D.D.S., is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. As the Director of the Indian Health Service (IHS), he is an Assistant Surgeon General and holds the rank of Rear Admiral in the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service. He was appointed as the Interim Director in 2002, and was sworn in by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2003. As the principal federal health care provider and health advocate for Indian people, the IHS is responsible for providing preventive, curative, and community health care to approximately 1.9 million of the nation's 3.3 million American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Specialized in: Aids Information - Hiv Myths - Disease Transmission Prevention - Aids Organization - Aids Treatment - Hiv Facts - Related - Transmission - Basic
URL: http://www.aids.gov
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