Friday, January 06, 2012

Lack of education apparently leading to rise in HIV and AIDS cases in the Navajo Nation

HIV infections drop or reamain steady in other parts of the country, but are rising sharply in the Navajo Nation, reports Stephen Ceaser of the Los Angeles Times. Poverty, poor education, alcohol abuse and a culture where talking about death causes it all combine to create an environment where the virus can spread, and where many know little about it until they contract it.

Ceaser reports the 35 new cases of HIV infection a year seems small when compared to the 173,600 people living on the reservation. However, that is three times the number of new cases recorded a decade ago. When the increase began in 2001, HIV cases were rare among Navajo, with cases coming from people contracting it in cities and returning home for treatment or to die. Then, Navajo began infecting other Navajo.

Many patients choose to mix modern medical treatment with traditional Navajo healing. Ceaser reports the Indian Health Service encourages this, out of respect for the Navajo and to make patients feel comfortable and optimistic about treatment. (Times photo by Barbara Davidson: Jerry Archuleta, left, and his partner, Emerson Scott)

HIV and AIDS are widely considered a "white man's disease," and those who contract it are often shunned in the Navajo Nation. However, a small number of Navajo are coming together to educate others about the dangers of the diseases. Emerson Scott and his partner Jerry Archuleta, both HIV positive, are two. Scott stands outside his local library handing out condoms and encouraging people to get tested, though no one has accepted his offers yet. Both volunteer with the Navajo AIDS Network and several support groups for HIV and AIDS patients, spending hours with those who consider suicide. (Read more)

1 comment:

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