A sit down with Trudie Jackson

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TEMPE, Ariz. - On Sept. 18, Trudie Jackson, Dine, will be awarded the 2008 Marty Prairie Award by the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center (NNAAPC).

Jackson works for the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS as an Underserved Population Prevention Specialist in Phoenix. The award ceremony will take place during the United States Conference on AIDS (USCA) at the Broward County Convention Center in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

According to a press release, Marty Lynn Prairie had a ''tireless commitment to HIV/AIDS education and prevention in Indian Country. ... [He] inspired NNAAPC to honor his legacy by presenting an annual Marty Prairie Award to a Native American community member who demonstrates action, voice, and leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS.''

Prior to interviewing Jackson, she felt it was important to direct me to a local Phoenix paper that did an article on transgendered issues in Native communities. Jackson was interviewed by the local paper since she is a part of the transgendered community for which she is also a strong advocate.

Indian Country Today: You work as an Underserved Population Prevention Specialist for the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS. Describe what your job entails.

Trudie Jackson: I work with high risk populations and the underserved which would include individuals that are homeless, substance abusers, or survival sex workers. I am one of two American Indians that are employed at the Southwest Center so I work with urban and rural American Indians within the state of Arizona. At the state level, I am the Co-Chair for the Arizona American Indian HIV Task Force which includes all of the 22 tribes in the state of Arizona. We have meetings and we try to address issues within Native communities pertaining to HIV/AIDS and other STD related issues.

ICT: What has been the most complicated barrier to overcome in HIV/AIDS prevention among Arizona Native communities?

Jackson: There are numerous things and it usually varies in urban setting versus a rural setting. I would have to say that with both places stigma still plays a big factor. In rural areas, there is still not enough education about HIV/AIDS because of lack of funds and in many cases some individuals may have to wear different hats and have to work with multiple programs.

ICT: Can you elaborate on stigma?

Jackson: An example is someone who might disclose that they are HIV positive when they return home to the reservation and then people tend to turn their backs. Sometimes if a client walks into an IHS facility there is a lack of confidentiality. Clients usually don't feel comfortable going to an IHS facility.

ICT: What is a major misconception that Native people often have about HIV/AIDS?

Jackson: I would say that it is still considered a gay white man's disease and only gay people contract it.

ICT: Provide a brief and general description of HIV/AIDS in Native communities.

Jackson: From what I am hearing and what the CDC is releasing, HIV/AIDS is on the rise in Native communities. If tribes do not start educating or talking about the epidemic, it will continue to increase on tribal reservations. I think there needs to be more sex education in the junior high to high school level where students are getting sexually active and to educate them more about the different STDs so they can be more well-informed and educated to prevent the spreading of HIV.

ICT: What is most rewarding about your job; what makes it all worthwhile?

Jackson: Reaching different walks of life, educating someone who is not informed about HIV/AIDS, and sharing with them all the risks factors that are involved. Also, getting someone tested.

ICT: You are a member of the Arizona American Indian HIV Task Force, the HIV Prevention Planning Group of Arizona, the Central Arizona HIV Prevention Advocates and the National Native CPG Network. What roles have you played in these organizations?

Jackson: Well, as the Arizona American Indian task force I am going on my third year as co-chair with one year remaining. With the HIV Prevention Planning Group of Arizona I was voted in as the at large member. The Central Arizona HIV Prevention Advocates is a group in Phoenix and there I represent American Indians. For the National Native CPG Network, I represent the state of Arizona as well as the Arizona American Indian task force.

ICT: You are a recipient of the Marty Lynn Prairie Award. Tell me why you received this award?

Jackson: From what I understand, people nominated me because of the work that I do out in the community on the state as well as a national level.

ICT: According to the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center's Web site, Marty Lynn Prairie had a ''tireless commitment to HIV/AIDS education and prevention in Indian Country.'' What does getting this award mean for your commitment to HIV/AIDS education and prevention?

Jackson: I think it is an honor and the award does mean a lot but I feel
that working in Indian country the work is still not done. Even though this award is something...more people just need to be educated.

ICT: What do you want Native peoples to know about HIV/AIDS in Native communities?

Jackson: I would say knowledge is power. It does not hurt to ask any questions pertaining to HIV/AIDS and it is best to get all the proper answers from someone who specializes in the field instead of relying on myths circulating in Indian country.