AIDS update calls for more prevention

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DENVER – Updated federal statistics show that American Indians have high rates of HIV/AIDS compared to other groups, said Warren Jimenez, executive director of the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center, in an Aug. 6 press release.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new HIV/AIDS statistics “should serve to remind us of the importance of prevention efforts in the Native community,” he said in prepared remarks. “Now is the time to act to help reduce the impact of this disease in our community and help keep it from reaching the epidemic levels seen in some other ethnic groups.”

The CDC’s latest estimates put American Indians and Alaska Natives third in HIV/AIDS rates after blacks and Hispanics, he said.

According to the CDC’s statistics, the rate of HIV/AIDS for Natives was 10.4 for every 100,000 people, compared to 71.3 for blacks, 27.8 for Hispanics, 8.8 for whites, and 7.4 for Asians and Pacific Islanders.

In addition, the new statistics show that Natives survive for a shorter amount of time after an AIDS diagnosis than whites, Hispanics, and Asians and Pacific Islanders, he said.

The new estimates also cite a total number of HIV/AIDS infections in the United States that is higher than previously believed, with an estimated 56,300 infections occurring in 2006 rather than the previous estimate of 40,000 infections.

The change may reflect a previous error in estimates, at least in part, but continues to point to an urgent need for prevention, Jimenez said.

The nonprofit National Native American AIDS Prevention Center in Denver was founded in 1987. Its mission is to address the impact of HIV/AIDS on American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians through culturally appropriate advocacy, research, education and policy development in support of healthy indigenous people.

The organization “provides capacity-building assistance in tribal and urban health organizations and communities, community-based organizations serving Native people, and agencies that administer federal HIV/AIDS policy.”