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

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A Mother’s Hope

Children are our future.  It is our responsibility–no, it should be our mission to provide them with the tools that will enable them to have the future that God meant for them to have.  It is every mother’s hope to see her child rise above adversity, poverty and all the social ills that would oppress and impede progress.  Every mother has a right to believe that her child can have the life that she wants for him or her.  Nothing is impossible, especially when God is involved.  Mothers, keep the faith.  Teach your children to dream big and to reach for the stars. 

It’s every mother’s hope for her child to have a bright future.  It was Hannah’s hope that if God were to bless her with a son, he would serve the Lord all of his life.  What a wonderful prophet Samuel turned out to be!

While I was carrying my son, I tried to imagine what he would look like.  I dreamed that he would have huge dark eyes in a sweet face.  I was right.  I will never forget the day in the hospital when he looked up at me with those big beautiful eyes.   My heart melted, of course.  I wanted him to have the best that life could offer.   I wanted to keep him safe and care for him as best as I could with God’s help.  I am blessed to have a husband who is a terrific father and role model for our son.

My son is seven years old now and nothing has changed.  My hopes for his future are still the same.  My husband and I want him to have the best education we can afford so that he can grow up and be whatever he wants to be.  We encourage him to work hard.  I tell him that there are children in other parts of the world who cannot go to school because their parents cannot afford to send them or in some families only one child is able to go to school and it’s usually the boy.  I tell him that he has so much to be thankful for.  He lives in a house and has his own room while there are children who live in poverty.

Growing up, to me, my mother was very strict, more so than my father.  I remember once I wrote a very steamy story that somehow ended up in her possession and I knew I was in big trouble.  I was going to get a spanking from my father so I had to think quickly.  I wrote another story and when the opportunity came, I switched it with the other one.  You can imagine her surprise when she gave my father the letter and didn’t get the reaction she expected.  When she read it, she saw that it was a different one.  I don’t know what happened after that but the only thing that mattered to me at the time was that I didn’t get a spanking.  Over the years, my mother and I became very close.   I was very happy when I became a mother and watched as she held her only grandchild in her arms for the first time.  It wasn’t until I was older that she said, “You have your own life to live.”  Perhaps one day I may say that to my son although a part of me doesn’t want him to grow up.  No matter how old he is, he will always be my baby.  I take great comfort in the fact that God has great plans for his life.

It’s not easy being a mother.  It’s especially hard for the mothers in Asia who are struggling to provide for their families.  Imagine your children growing up illiterate, uneducated?  Education is the key to alleviating poverty, illiteracy and saving children from social evils like child labor and prostitution.  Children are God’s gifts and should be valued.  They are not worthless as some would have them think.  They are precious and deserve the best.

Although greater involvement by fathers – in all countries and cultures – is one of the most fundamental priorities for improving the care and upbringing of children, it is in practice the mothers who are the principal providers of care. And the first thing to be said is that however much a mother may love her children, it is all but impossible for her to provide high-quality child care if she herself is poor and oppressed, illiterate and uninformed, anaemic and unhealthy, has five or six other children, lives in a slum or shanty, has neither clean water nor safe sanitation, and if she is without the necessary support either from health services, or from her society, or from the father of her children.

The situation for mothers in South Asia sounds very dismal but true to His nature, God has found a way to reach out to them and their children.  Gospel for Asia has a wonderful program which can change the despair of the mothers in Asia to hope.  It can change the lives of children.  Bridge of Hope has helped more than 72,000 children so far and as a result thousands of families have found faith in Christ.  We can help a mother in Asia to have a Happy Mother’s day by sponsoring her child.  She can see her child get an education, receive a regular medical check-up, wear clean clothes and eat a daily meal.

Nothing pleases me more than to watch my son head into school each morning with his father, carrying a lunch bag and wearing his nice, clean and ironed uniform.  I know that he is going to school to learn so that one day, he will have a career and a future.  One day, he will be taking his kids to school too.  How grateful do you think a mother in Asia would be to see her child walking to school because someone decided to step in and make her hope a reality?

I encourage you to sponsor a Bridge of Hope child in honor of his or her mother.  Make this a Mother’s Day a very special one for a woman in Asia.  Give her the gift of hope–the hope of seeing her child have a great future.

Hope is the pillar that holds up the world. Hope is the dream of a waking man – Pliny the Elder

Hope is the anchor of our souls. I know of no one who is not in need of hope – young or old, strong or weak, rich or poor – James E. Faust

Sources:  Gospel for Asia – MothersHope Quotes; Unicef