National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

national-native-hiv-aids-awareness-day

Courtesy:  Indian Country Today

It was just few days ago when I learned that March was designated as Women’s History Month.  Well, today, an identical thing happened to me which prompted me to put this post together in a hurry.  I found out just a few minutes ago that today is National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.  I also discovered that my ignorance of the day is not surprising given that it is a little known observance day.  NNHAAD is a day geared toward drawing attention to and building support for HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care among American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian populations.  Here are some facts, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

  • Among American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN), women account for 29% of the HIV/AIDS diagnoses. 
  • For Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NH/PI) populations given a diagnosis, 78% were men, 21% were women, and 1% were children (under 13 years of age) in 2005.
  • From 2007 to 2010, new HIV infections among AI/NA populations increased by 8.7% (CDC).

While these percentages may seem low, one must remember to take into account the size of these populations compared to more populous races and ethnicities in the U.S. For example, according to the CDC, in 2005 American Indians and Alaska Natives ranked 3rd in rates of HIV/AIDS diagnosis, following blacks and Hispanics. To put this into numbers, the rate of new HIV/AIDS infections in 2008 per 100,000 persons were:

  • 73.7 Black/African American
  • 25.0 Hispanic/Latinos
  • 22.85 Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders 
  • 11.9 American Indian and Alaska Native 
  • 8.2 Whites
  • 7.2 Asians

Given that many of these populations live in rural areas, access to health care services can be difficult. Not to mention other roadblocks to obtaining needed services such as language and cultural barriers. Native communities have some of the shortest survival times after diagnosis of HIV/AIDS of all race and ethnicity groups in the U.S.

The report also showed that Native communities are not accessing the much needed care and attention after being diagnosed with HIV.  I also learned that about 26% are living with HIV and don’t even know it.  So, this means that since they don’t know that they have it, they wouldn’t seek medical help.  On the other hand, those who know that they have it, take steps to protect their health and take action to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Thankfully, there are public services like the IHS (Indian Health Service), an agency whose mission is to raise the physical, mental, social, and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level.  Our goal is to assure that comprehensive, culturally acceptable personal and public health services are available and accessible to American Indian and Alaska Native people.  The IHS operates within Department of Health and Human Services.

The IHS National HIV/AIDS Program is committed to partnering with communities to create lasting change in the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We provide programs to assist individuals, families, communities, and health care providers to:

  • Understand how HIV is spread, and share knowledge about HIV with others
  • Get tested for HIV
  • Put policies and procedures in place to offer a HIV testing as a routine part of all health care
  • Improve access to care, treatment, and prevention services needed by people living with HIV and AIDS

IHS providers throughout the country are offering screening more often, collaborating with communities to increase education, and offering care or referrals where direct care is not available. We can all help to reduce the stigma within our culture and among health care providers regarding HIV/AIDS.

I was shocked to learn that March 20, 2016 was the tenth anniversary of this annual awareness day.  I wonder how many people out there who even know that it exists.  Awareness, education and access are key.  And I applaud the many dedicated organizations that are currently working hard within the Indigenous communities to break down barriers and to promote HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.   

The theme for 2016 was:  “Hear Indigenous Voices: Uniting the Bold Voices of American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islanders.” Last year’s was:  theme is “Unity in CommUnity, Stand Strong to Prevent HIV.” On this day, we recognize the impact of HIV/AIDS on American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities.  The theme this year is “Unity in CommUNITY: Stand Strong for HIV Prevention.

It is my hope and prayer that long after this year’s National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day passes, that more people will find ways to stand strong for the Native communities.  We have heard the Indigenous voices, stood with them as we recognized that they are impacted by HIV/AIDS and now we must stand strong for prevention.  We have heard the voices, now it is time to be united in the fight to change the tide in this epidemic which discriminates against no one.  The HIV/AIDs is not one group’s or community’s fight but everyone’s fight.

Sources:  Humanitas Global Development; Indian Country Today; Indian Health Service

Women and Arthritis

My mother used to have severe pain in her knees due to arthritis before she got replacements in them.  I remember how swollen they looked.  She told me that the arthritis might have been the result of scrubbing the floor on her knees.  Since then they hurt and her mother put on them but they burned her.  There were times when my mother asked me to massage her knees because they hurt.  And what made it worse was the lack of bone density which made the bones in her knees rub together.   My mother-in-law has arthritis in her knees too and one of my aunts has rheumetoid arthritis.

Just recently on TV I saw a promotion for the 2012 Walk to Fight Arthritis which takes place across Canada on June 10.  This got me thinking about writing a post on Arthritis.  What is Arthritis and what causes it?  What are the symptoms?  Can we prevent it?  I searched the Internet to find the answers to these questions and learned so much in the process.

There are more than 100 types of arthritis.  However, there are two common types–osteoarthritis, which is the “wear and tear” arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis

Here are 10 facts about arthritis:

  1. Arthritis is far from a new disease.  In fact, many researchers believe it has been a part of civilization since the beginning of time, even affecting dinosaurs millions of years ago.  Researchers also believe that skeletal remains from humans living around 4500 B.C. show signs of the disease.
  2. Did you know that the word arthritis literally means joint inflammation?  That’s right, the word arthritis comes from the Greek words for joint (arthro) and inflammation (-itis).
  3. There are over 100 forms of arthritis, including little talked about diseases like Kawasaki disease, which involves inflammation of the blood vessels, and Sweet’s syndrome, which is a skin condition marked by fever and painful skin lesions.
  4. Were you aware that arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States?  According to the CDC, arthritis and rheumatic conditions cost the U.S. economy $128 billion annually and result in 44 million outpatient visits and 9,367 deaths each year.
  5. Movement is one of the best treatment options for arthritis and can help most people prevent the onset of the disease in the first place. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) reports that strong evidence indicates both endurance and resistance types of exercise provide considerable disease-specific benefits for persons with osteoarthritis (OA) and other rheumatic conditions.
  6. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and is a chronic disease that affects some 27 million Americans. OA is characterized by the breakdown of cartilage, which can cause stiffness and pain.
  7. There are two types of OA – primary and secondary. Primary osteoarthritis is generally associated with aging and the “wear and tear” of life. The older you are, the more likely you are to have some degree of primary osteoarthritis. Secondary osteoarthritis, in contrast, tends to develop relatively early in life, typically 10 or more years after a specific cause, such as an injury or obesity.
  8. Did you know that children get arthritis too?  Nearly 300,000 children in the United States are living with juvenile arthritis.  Juvenile arthritis (JA) refers to any form of arthritis or an arthritis-related condition that develops in children or teenagers who are less than 18 years of age.
  9. Juvenile arthritis is one of the most common chronic childhood conditions, occurring nearly as often as insulin-dependent juvenile diabetes.  The most common form of arthritis in children is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), which has two peaks of onset: between 1 and 3 years of age and between 8 and 12 years of age.
  10. Arthritis is more common among women (24.9%) than men (18.1%), and girls are twice as likely to develop juvenile rheumatoid arthritis as boys.
Some of the risk factors which can cause arthritis include:
  • Genetics
    Exactly how much heredity or genetics contributes to the cause of arthritis is not well understood. However, there are likely genetic variations that can contribute to the cause of arthritis.
  • Age
    Cartilage becomes more brittle with age and has less of a capacity to repair itself. As people grow older they are more likely to develop arthritis.
  • Weight
    Because joint damage is partly dependent on the load the joint has to support, excess body weight can lead to arthritis. This is especially true of the hips and knees that can be worn quickly in heavier patients.
  •  Previous Injury
    Joint damage can cause irregularities in the normal smooth joint surface. Previous major injuries can be part of the cause of arthritis. An example of an injury leading to arthritis is a tibial plateau fracture, where the broken area of bone enters the cartilage of the knee joint.
  •  Occupational Hazards
    Workers in some specific occupations seem to have a higher risk of developing arthritis than other jobs. These are primarily high demand jobs such as assembly line workers and heavy construction.
  •  Some High-Level Sports
    It is difficult to determine how much sports participation contributes to development of arthritis. Certainly, sports participation can lead to joint injury and subsequent arthritis. However, the benefits of activity likely outweigh any risk of arthritis.
  • Illness or Infection
    People who experience a joint infection (septic joint), multiple episodes of gout, or other medical conditions, can develop arthritis of the joint.

According to a Mayo Clinic Study, rheumatoid arthritis is on the rise among women.  In rheumatoid arthritis, women are up to three times more likely to develop the condition than men. Many women with rheumatoid arthritis go into remission during pregnancy. To date, no one has been able to determine the exact cause of this beneficial effect, but one theory is that changes in hormone levels may effect the level of proteins in the blood that contribute to inflammation.

What are the symptoms?  

Symptoms of arthritis include pain and limited function of joints. Inflammation of the joints from arthritis is characterized by joint stiffness, swelling, redness, and warmth. Tenderness of the inflamed joint can be present.

Many of the forms of arthritis, because they are rheumatic diseases, can cause symptoms affecting various organs of the body that do not directly involve the joints. Therefore, symptoms in some patients with certain forms of arthritis can also include fever, gland swelling (swollen lymph nodes),weight loss, fatigue, feeling unwell, and even symptoms from abnormalities of organs such as the lungs, heart, or kidneys.

Are there ways to prevent arthritis?  According to the Arthritis Foundation, it can be.  They offer these common tips for prevention:

  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet to help maintain your recommended weight. Women who are overweight have a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis in the knees. Learn more about nutrition.
  • Talk to your doctor about taking vitamin and mineral supplements. Having insufficient levels of vitamin D decreases the amount of calcium your body can absorb. That coupled with lower calcium levels as you age can help contribute to osteoporosis. Check out the Arthritis Today Vitamin & Mineral Guide.
  • Exercise regularly to strengthen muscles around joints and help increase bone density. Exercise may reduce wear and tear on your joints, which can help prevent injury and reduce the risk of osteoarthritis. Increased bone density also can help stave off osteoporosis. Check out some exercise routines or get moving with the Arthritis Foundation.
  • Avoid smoking and limit your alcohol consumption to help avoid osteoporosis. Both habits weaken the structure of bone, which puts you at higher risk for fractures.
  • Discuss hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with your primary care provider if you are postmenopausal. Many women lose bone mass during the pre- and postmenopausal years when their ovaries stop producing estrogen. One of estrogen’s functions is to help keep calcium in the bones and maintain bone mass. Lowered estrogen level is a major cause of osteoporosis in women after menopause.
If you suspect that you have arthritis, see your doctor.  To diagnose arthritis, your doctor will take a thorough history and conduct a physical examination to determine which joints are affected.  If you are someone currently suffering with arthritis or was recently diagnosed with it, here is a website that may offer you some support.  Another great website to visit is http://www.arthritistoday.org/.  You can join the community and meet people who know exactly what you are going through.

Sources:  http://www.arthritis.org/women.php; http://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/guide/most-common-arthritis-typeshttp://arthritis.about.com/od/arthritissignssymptoms/a/women_arthritis.htm; http://orthopedics.about.com/od/arthritis/f/arthritiscauses.htmhttp://www.medicinenet.com/arthritis/article.htm#Whatisarthritishttp://bodyandhealth.canada.com/channel_condition_info_details.asp?channel_id=42&relation_id=107751&disease_id=239&page_no=2

Pakistan’s Senate Passes Domestic Violence Bill

I read this evening on the website for Violence is Not Our Culture about the passing of domestic violence bill in Pakistan.  VNC congratulated their partners Baidarie Sialkot and Shirkat Gah and other civil society groups and women’s human rights activists who have been campaigning over the past few years to pass this bill.

Baidarie Sialkot is a non-government and non-profit organization which was established in 1993 by the rural women of UC Roras who were keen to work for the empowerment and development of the women of the area. It carries out its operations without having religious, lingual, political and social discriminations to motivate the rural communities, particularly women, to take an active part in the social developmental process. The organization strives hard to develop women into active, productive and dynamic citizens of the country.

Shirkat Gah literally means a place of participation. It was formed as a non hierarchical collective in 1975 by a group of women with a shared perspective on women’s rights and development.

The organizations’ fundamental goal was to encourage women to play a full and equal role in society by promoting and protecting the social and economic development of women already participating in, or wanting to participate in, the national development.

The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) bill makes violence against women and children an offence carrying jail terms and fines, state media said.  It was introduced by Senator Nilofar Bakhtiar and passed unanimously by the upper house of the federal parliament, Pakistan Television reported.  It was passed unanimously in the National Assembly, the lower house in parliament almost three years ago in August 2009.  It will come into effect after it is signed into legislation by President Asif Ali Zardari.

Under this bill those found guilty of beating women or children will face a minimum six months behind bars and a fine of at least 100,000 rupees ($1,100).  In addition to protecting children and women, it provides protection to the adopted, employed and domestic associates in a household.

The law classifies domestic violence as acts of physical, sexual or mental assault, force, criminal intimidation, harassment, hurt, confinement and deprivation of economic or financial resources.   In the past if a man beat her wife or children, the police could not arrest him because it was considered a domestic affair.  Now, thanks to the passing of this bill, the police can step in and make an arrest.

Human rights groups say that Pakistani women suffer severe discrimination, domestic violence and so-called “honour” killings.  This means that a victim is murdered for allegedly bringing dishonour upon her family.  I read that in Afghanistan running away from an abusive husband or a forced marriage are considered “moral crimes”, for which women are currently imprisoned.  Rape victims are imprisoned because sex outside marriage, even when the woman is forced, is considered adultery, another “moral crime”.  I cannot believe that the woman who is abused by her husband is imprisoned.  I fail to see how rape can be classified as adultery which is consensual sex between two people outside of marriage.  Rape is not about sex.  It is a violent act.  And rape victims should be protected not treated like criminals.   It would be really great if Afghanistan were to pass a similar bill.

It is believed that the spread of Islamist fundamentalism is increasingly isolating the women in Pakistan, especially in the areas where the Taliban are.  Thankfully this bill will change things in the Pakistani women’s favor.  Men will no longer get away with their crimes.

It is truly a victory for Pakistan and especially the women and children whose rights are finally going to be protected.  This is a testimony that awareness + action = change.

Source:  http://abusehelplines.org/2012/02/21/pakistans-senate-unanimously-passes-domestic-violence-bill/

Women and Osteosporosis

Last night my husband and I watched Doc Martin on PBS and in this episode Martin confirmed that his aunt Joan was suffering from Osteoporosis.  She was devastated by the news.  It was as if she had been handed a death sentence.  She didn’t want to talk to him about it and she was depressed–until she began a relationship with a much younger man.

What is Osteoporosis?  Osteoporosis is a metabolic bone disease characterized by low bone mass, which makes bones fragile and susceptible to fracture. Osteoporosis is known as a silent disease because symptoms and pain do not appear until a fracture occurs. Without prevention or treatment, osteoporosis can progress painlessly until a bone breaks, typically in the hip, spine, or wrist. A hip fracture can limit mobility and lead to a loss of independence, and vertebral fractures can result in a loss of height, stooped posture, and chronic pain.

Now that I have an idea of what this disease is all about, I can understand why Doc Martin’s aunt was so devastated by the news.  She is a very independent and active woman who has her own farm.  The prospect of limited mobility must have been very daunting for her.  And no one wants to endure chronic pain.

What are the risk factors of Osteoporosis?  They are:

  • a thin, small-boned frame
  • previous fracture or family history of osteoporotic fracture
  • estrogen deficiency resulting from early menopause (before age 45), either naturally, from surgical removal of the ovaries, or as a result of prolonged amenorrhea (abnormal absence of menstruation) in younger women
  • advanced age
  • a diet low in calcium
  • Caucasian and Asian ancestry (African American and Hispanic women are at lower but significant risk)
  • cigarette smoking
  • excessive use of alcohol
  • prolonged use of certain medications, such as those used to treat lupus, asthma, thyroid deficiencies, and seizures.

I read today that although African American women tend to have higher bone mineral density (BMD) than white women throughout life, they are still at significant risk of developing osteoporosis. The misperception that osteoporosis is only a concern for white women can delay prevention and treatment in African American women who do not believe they are at risk for the disease.

Why are women more likely to get Osteoporosis than men?

Women start with lower bone density than their male peers and they lose bone mass more quickly as they age, which leads to osteoporosis in some women. Between the ages of 20 and 80, the average white woman loses one-third of her hip bone density, compared to a bone density loss of only one-fourth in men.

What issues do African American women face with regard to Osteoporosis?

  • Osteoporosis is underrecognized and undertreated among them.
  • As they age, their risk for hip fracture doubles approximately every 7 years.
  • They are more likely than white women to die following a hip fracture.
  • Diseases more prevalent in the African American population, such as sickle cell anemia and lupus, can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis.
  • They consume 50 percent less calcium than the Recommended Dietary Allowance. Adequate intake of calcium plays a crucial role in building bone mass and preventing bone loss.
  • As many as 75 percent of all African Americans are lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance can hinder optimal calcium intake. People with lactose intolerance often may avoid milk and other dairy products that are excellent sources of calcium because they have trouble digesting lactose, the primary sugar in milk.  I stopped drinking dairy milk a long time ago and have been drinking rice milk instead.  I think my sister is lactose intolerant.  She drinks Soya milk.  The cheese I recently bought is lactose free because my husband and son are lactose intolerant. However, I am the only one eating this cheese because neither of them is interested in it and I’m not even lactose intolerant.  I should be eating regular cheese with zero transfat.

What can we do to prevent Osteoporosis?

  • Eat a well-balanced diet adequate in calcium and vitamin D.
  • Exercise regularly, with an emphasis on weight-bearing activities such as walking, jogging, dancing, and weight training.
  • Live a healthy lifestyle. Avoid smoking and, if you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.  I don’t smoke or drink.  I really need to start exercising.  My husband bought me an exercise ball which I still haven’t used.  I enjoy walking so I was thinking that during lunch time, I could walk the path at my workplace.  I also like dancing, so I could work up a sweat to some hip hop or disco.  Was never a fan of jogging.  I need to increase my calcium.

If you have a family history of Osteoporosis, speak to your doctor.  Your doctor may suggest that you have your bone density measured to determine your risk for fractures (broken bones), and measure your response to osteoporosis treatment.  The most widely recognized bone mineral density test is called a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, or DXA test. It is safe and painless, a bit like having an x ray, but with much less exposure to radiation. This test can measure bone density at your hip and spine.

There is no cure for Osteoporosis, that’s why prevention is so important.  Don’t be discouraged.  Medications are available for the prevention and/or treatment of the disease.  If you need more information on osteoporosis, including lactose intolerance, nutrition, exercise, treatment, and fall prevention for the elderly, visit the National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases ~ National Resource Center Web site at www.bones.nih.gov

Ladies, let us start taking care of our bones.

Sources:
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