March 19, 2011

March 19, 2011

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Saturday and I hope your weekend is off to a safe and great start. Dab the AIDS Bear and I are very busy getting ready for the Florida AIDS Way which is tomorrow.

March 20th, 2011 marks the fifth annual observance of National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NNHAAD). This event is celebrated in the spring because it represents a time for change and rebirth. It is a day dedicated to increasing awareness of the risk of HIV/AIDS to American Indians, Alaska Natives (AI/AN) and Native Hawaiians, and to reignite the commitment to end the spread of HIV/AIDS among Native people.

NNHAAD is organized and implemented by the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center (NNAAPC), Colorado State University's Center for Applied Studies in American Ethnicity Commitment to Action for 7th Generation Awareness & Education: HIV Prevention Project (CA7AE), and Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. (ITCA).

As reported by CDC, AI/ANs rank 3rd and 4th, respectively, in new HIV infection rates as compared to other ethnic groups. Although the number of HIV and AIDS diagnoses for AI/ANs represent less than 1% of the total number of HIV/AIDS cases reported, this group has the shortest overall survival times.

American Indians and Alaska Natives face many challenges in addressing the risks associated with HIV/AIDS, including limited access to healthcare and other social and structural barriers. It is important to understand how cultural factors impact the HIV/AIDS epidemic in these vulnerable populations. The AIDS Institute proudly supports NNHAAD in its efforts to engage Native communities in raising awareness about HIV/AIDS.

Some challenges faced by AI/ANs include: the presence of sexually transmitted diseases that increase the risk of HIV transmission, substance abuse, poverty, restricted access to healthcare, lower level of education, and access to HIV testing. AI/ANs are less likely to access testing due to concerns about confidentiality in close knit communities where someone might encounter a friend, a relative or an acquaintance at a local healthcare facility.

Dab the AIDS Bear Project strongly encourages Native communities to get involved in efforts to fight the stigma of the disease, encourage HIV testing, and raise the level of knowledge and awareness about HIV/AIDS. Individuals can celebrate this event by organizing an informative meeting with friends, relatives, and neighbors, handing out educational materials at a health fair, writing an editorial, or organizing community walks and memorials. More ideas are available on the NNHAAD website. Please participate in this annual celebration of life!

We also look forward to seeing you at the Florida AIDS Walk in Fort Lauderdale, Florida tomorrow. Come by and get your picture taken with Dab the AIDS Bear in support of people living with HIV and AIDS. We have almost reached the half million mark of pictures taken with the bear!

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab